Elsie Roy students get a sneak peek backstage at The Nutcracker

Schools & Students

Students from Ian Delong’s Grade 4/5 class at Elsie Roy spent an afternoon learning about the inner workings of Goh Ballet’s The Nutcracker. This elaborate production at The Centre features several international performers and roughly 200 local dancers.  

Before Delong’s class enters through the stage door, he gives his students some last minute tips. “It’s important to be a good audience member – clap, but not for too long and not too short,” he tells them. “We are really lucky to be getting this special preview,” he adds. The students have learned that the ballet art form tells a story through movement and classical music. 

Tanya Phelps, Goh Ballet’s associate director of outreach and a dancer in the production, tours the Elsie Roy students, and a group from Weir Elementary through a maze of hallways backstage. The kids see some of the many brightly coloured costumes the dancers will wear on stage. There are also stacks of props – the nutcracker’s mask, the rat king’s giant fuzzy head, dozens of party cakes and rows and rows of soldier’s caps. 

The students have an opportunity to watch as some of the youngest members of the cast apply their blush and eye shadow. They then meet two of the principal dancers in full costume. “Why do you wear so much makeup?” asks one grade 4 boy. “I’m playing the Harlequin,” says Lucas De Koning from the Netherlands. “He’s a brightly coloured jester,” he adds.  “If the performers didn’t put on dramatic makeup, the theatre audience sitting in their seats far away wouldn’t be able to see their facial expressions,” explains Phelps. “Dancers’ movements too have to be very large and dramatic to be understood,” she adds. 

The students settle in their seats as the only audience members in the cavernous space. The director, Chan Hon Goh, and production staff sit at a special table in the centre of the theatre. When it is time for the performance to begin, the lights dim and the music starts. 

The students hear the director as she fine-tunes the show, giving the dancers final instructions. The kids sit rapt as the magical story unfolds before them. They stay for the first act and then must head out for the walk back to school. 

“My favourite part was when the snow started falling and all the dancing,” enthuses one girl. “The Rat King and Clara part was my favourite,” says another.  “It was good,” says one boy who had been to the ballet before. “I liked it,” chorus others. “The director pointed out every single little mistake that we didn’t even notice,” observes one boy. “I like the way they do their big kicks and everything. It’s cool,” says one particularly keen student who then proceeds to dance his way down the street.

Elsie Roy Grade 4/5 visits The Nutcracker