At the ripe age of 21, Taryn Nowels has seen her fair share of Nutcracker productions. It’s her first season with Alberta Ballet this year, and the transplant from Huntington Beach, California professes that the prairie winter, while somewhat shocking, is a refreshing change from the beach life she grew up with.
“I really enjoy having actual seasons,” she says. “A white Christmas is really nice, but no flip-flops anymore for me.”
Like so many ballet dancers, during the years and travels in her career she’s played everything in The Nutcracker from a snowflake to a flower to an angel and a soldier. And, like the myriad companies across the globe with their own takes on Tchaikovsky’s other most famous ballet (let’s not forget the one with the big white birds), Alberta Ballet’s production gives the very youngest of dancers some of their first stage time with a professional company.
“I play a ‘party parent’ as the female guest in the party scene, and in it I have three children. The kids are just so excited; they’re all saying ‘This is my sixth time!’ or ‘This is my first time!'” Nowels says, noting that some young dancers will appear in The Nutcracker for a number of years while in the junior company. “Maybe they’ve done four years as a soldier—that’s how I got started, too. When I danced with Ballet Repertory Theatre I got to be a baby mouse and work up through the ranks and finally I got to Sugar Plum, and that’s every kids dream come true, really.”
Move over Odette, right? The legend of Sugar Plum and her seat as one of the more coveted roles in the balletic canon has puzzled me at times; it’s not a big role. She gets one scene, the big pas de deux with the Cavalier, and then the focus pretty much goes back to Clara. So what gives?
“There’s definitely something enchanting about the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Nowels explains. “She comes out towards the end and gets to dance with the lovely Cavalier and gets to wear a pink, sparkly tutu and dance on pointe—I think as a young kid that really is enchanting,” she says. “And she’s the Queen in the Land of Sweets. There’s just something about that that draws people in.”
Thu, Dec 12 – Sun, Dec 15
Jubilee Auditorium, $29 – $95