"The Nutcracker is a tradition for a lot people, a lot of families," said Lesa Dusich, the executive and artistic director of the Reno Dance Company. "If you see a ballet, it usually is the Nutcracker."
The Nugget's Nutcracker performance is the last stop on the dance company's winter tour. This season's Nutcracker performances began touring around northern Nevada Nov. 22. With each tour stop, Dusich auditioned local children for some of the minor dancing roles and taught them the dance routines over the course of a week before holding the performance. This year marks the company's 12th year performing Pyotr Tchaikovsky's masterpiece and its fifth year at the Nugget.
Dusich first introduced her dance students to the Nutcracker as an introduction to ballet.
"I had some kids who didn't have a good attitude about ballet," she said. "I thought they would appreciate it if they danced in the Nutcracker. And that idea worked."
There are approximately 140 dancers in the show, with 20 company members dancing in the lead roles. Dusich prides herself that her company members have a local background and received most of their training while studying at the Reno Dance Company.
"Our Nutcracker is faster-paced than most," Dusich said. "Some Nutcrackers' don't connect all the pieces of the performance. Ours has that clear connection. I had a woman tell me that she has watched the Nutcracker for 10 years and after watching our show, she finally understands it for the first time."
Dusich also makes changes to the show each year, adding variety and different twists to the classic tale.
"Last year, I added the Snow King to accompany the Snow Queen," said Dusich, "I'm always doing something new, something different. Some companies do the same thing every year. It gets boring. I believe that if you do the performance well, it will bring people back. So, that's why I like to make changes."
With their move to their new Sparks location, the Reno Dance Company had more kids from Sparks audition for roles in the Christmas ballet.
Adrienne Coats, a sophomore at Spanish Springs High School, dances as Clara, the lead role in the ballet. This performance marks her sixth year dancing in the Nutcracker.
"I started dancing when I was eight," said Coats, who began taking ballet lessons after her mother found a flyer about auditioning for the Nutcracker. She has played multiple roles in the performance, from a candy cane to a snow flake. This year is her first time playing the lead.
"I practice every day and am trying to show emotion on stage like a real actor. I just want to make sure that I have pretty feet and straight legs."
Brit Burns plays Clara's prince. He has been dancing with the Reno Dance Company for the last eight years when Dusich's eldest daughter convinced him to join the troupe.
"They needed guys for shows," Burns laughed. "I was dragged here and been stuck here ever since."
Dusich is especially excited about all the masculine talent her show has.
"I've danced in other shows around town and seen what is out there," said Dusich. "Our ballet is edgy. There are as many men as women in our production with lots of lifting. We have a great male presence which is unusual."
Dusich rents backdrops for the Nutcracker tour. Her touring budget alone was an estimated $75,000. Many of the costumes, including most of the dancer's tutus, were handmade.
"I have some moms that do some sewing," said Dusich. "Sometimes, we reuse a costume but since we're always changing, we're changing costumes this year. I spent about $10,000 on costumes this year, which can be tough on a non-profit sometimes. But the Nutcracker is our biggest show of the year and is worth all of that time and effort."
The dancers involved are excited to put on the Nutcracker for both ballet fans and those who have never seen the spectacle before.
"The show is magical and special," said Coats. "Everyone should see it."
For more information about Reno Dance Company and the Nutcracker performances, visit www.renodancecompany.com and www.janugget.com/entertainment/the-nutcracker.asp.