Dancers students rehearse The Nutcracker. This year, performances run Dec. 14th at 7 p.m., Dec. 15th at 1 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 16th at 1 p.m. on the College Arts Centre mainstage. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

The Nutcracker set to light up Red Deer College Arts Centre

Popular Christmas tradition runs Dec. 14th-16th on the mainstage

There is little else in the way of dazzling theatrical entertainment that says ‘Christmas’ quite like The Nutcracker.

After more than a century, Tchaikovsky’s stunning musical score, set against the story of an epic battle between mice and toy soldiers, still draws enormous holiday crowds. And over the past several years, it’s turned into a sparkling annual tradition at Red Deer College as well.

This year, performances run Dec. 14th at 7 p.m., Dec. 15th at 1 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 16th at 1 p.m. on the College Arts Centre mainstage.

”We have a large, younger cast this year – over 70 dancers,” said Tania Strader, the show’s director. “I had to rethink what age groups/experience levels I normally assign roles to. There have been some switch-ups and so that means new choreography, new ideas and new costumes on roles like bon bons, Marzipan and the snow angels. But I am excited for the changes as it adds a new twist on the normal,” she added.

The Nutcracker is the timeless tale of a holiday party that descends into the realm of magic.

Young Clara receives a nutcracker for Christmas and strange things begin to happen after everyone has turned in for the evening. Clara is guided through falling snow into the Land of Sweets, where rats and soldiers battle for victory and sweets from around the world dance in her honour.

The Nutcracker ballet reminds us that there is still a little magic in all of our lives. The ballet is based on a book called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King which was published by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman in 1916.

Strader also pointed out that the scenery has also started on a new, three-year year journey of being rebuilt.

“Red Deer College is working to create a set that we can use for years to come,” said. “This is year one of the journey and some exciting changes will be seen in the production.

“I like to keep it fresh for the dancers who come back year to year. And although a lot of time there are not a lot of big changes, the dancers are always excited for them. But they also like the consistency from year to year as well.”

Strader said her dedicated troupe of dancers comes from across Central Alberta – some from as far away as Rocky Mountain House and Didsbury.

“They come together and dance with other dancers who want the same thing, and that is the love for ballet that I love. The dancers want to be there and for most of them, they can’t be there enough!”

This year marks Strader’s 19th year of being involved with the show.

“I love how every year, it’s like a brand new show with a different cast but yet, it still feels the same. It feels like home.

“I also think people like tradition and The Nutcracker gives them that with the music, the story and the magical feeling that comes through lighting and costumes.”

She also feels that the story carries key stories and lessons – such as the classic battle of good vs. evil for example.

“But I also like the one with the idea that if you believe in your dreams, they will come true, and what better time than at Christmas to believe in your dreams,” she said, adding she just loves sharing her love of dance, ballet and The Nutcracker with both audiences and her students.

“I love how they realize that the parts they receive are not as important as the production as a whole,” she explained of the show’s formation. “We talk about how there are only so many roles in The Nutcracker and if you are part of it for many years, the odds are you will end up with repeat roles. The roles themselves are not as important as the story itself. The roles are a part of everything, but they are not solely everything. We are a team that if we are missing one role, we won’t work anymore. When they get that concept, better things come from it for the greater good! It truly is its own type of magic.”

Tickets for the performances can be purchased at

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