News / Calgary

Tickets sales and donations rise again for Alberta Nutcracker

Bless the Sugarplum Fairy, after a big drop in the last few years, Albertans are supporting the arts again

The Nutcracker and his battle against the Rat King have become an annual Christmas tradition for the Alberta Ballet.

Courtesy Paul McGrath

The Nutcracker and his battle against the Rat King have become an annual Christmas tradition for the Alberta Ballet.

Funding the arts in a slumped economy has proven a tough nut to crack – but things are turning around for the Alberta Ballet.

Artistic director Jean Grande-Maître said the ballet has seen an upturn in both donations and ticket sales this year, allowing the Nutcracker to open in four cities: Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

Not only does this create a longer working season for dancers who still need to put food on the table (and gifts under the tree), but it allows the annual Nutcracker show to remain a lavish, grand performance.

“The only way an arts organization can survive is by connecting with the community and then it’s how do you inspire people? What do they want to see happen with their donations – how do they want to support us?” Grande-Maître said.

Some donations help basic operations. Others focus on medical care for the dancers.

It’s not just shoes and tutus – donations help pay for sets, cast, rehearsals and much more.

For example, just one tutu for the Nutcracker costs nearly $2,500.

It may seem like a lot, but each costume is hand made, down to the smallest detail. In fact, Grande-Maître said nothing is purchased – everything in the ballet in created by hand wherever possible. It’s what allows the Alberta Ballet to be such a prestige company.

The Alberta Ballet funds its shows through a number of different streams, including sponsorships, fundraising events, donations and ticket sales.

Luckily, in addition to donations, ticket sales for the Nutcracker have seen a significant spike this season. Even then, Grande-Maître said the ballet just about breaks even on most of their shows.

In total, the Nutcracker will be performed about 30 times this season. To keep it fresh, the cast is switched up every night – dancers never perform the same role twice in a row.

To keep their spirits up, the Alberta Ballet brings about 80 kids onto the stage in each city.

“They bring an energy to the stage, the back stage and the dressing rooms – it’s just unimaginable and the dancers love it,” Grande-Maître explained. “We do beautiful traditional staging, but it’s very lavish and magical for kids.”

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