Goh Ballet’s The Nutcracker is a longstanding local tradition, both for the audiences who have made it their yearly ritual and for the 200-plus ballet dancers who transform it from story to stage. Many of the dancers begin playing small roles from a very young age, and as their technique grows, so does their role (and their costume size). Meet some of the stars of this year’s show—running from December 20 to 22 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre—who give life to the legacy.

nutcracker ballet vancouverPhoto by Adam Blasberg. Shot on location at Goh Ballet Academy.

1. “When they first open the curtains, you think about everything from when you first walked into the studio to your last rehearsal—which could have been just a couple hours ago—and you just know that it’s going to pay off, and that you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.” —Juliette, age 12, plays Clara

2. “In ‘Waltz of the Flowers,’ it’s fun to be part of a big group—it’s a big number with a lot of dancers. This year I’m doing the soloist part, so that is really exciting for me. It’s very special to share the stage with your friends.” —Ireland, age 15, plays a Snowflake, Angel and Flower Soloist

3. “My first year I was a mouse, and then a lamb, and then a party child, then a soldier, then an angel, and now I’m a soldier again. We’re not allowed to smile, so you have to keep a straight face… it’s hard because you want to smile to the audience.”—Amelie, age 11, plays a Soldier

4. “At the march, when its going to start, it starts right away. I get in the box, jump, ask for the stuffed rat, scare Clara, my mom takes it away, I gather all the party children, and we start the march. And the first beat for the march, your knee has to be all the way in the air. So you gotta be ready for it.”—Gideon, age 10, plays Fritz

5. “My favourite thing about performing is that I get to show people how good of a ballet dancer I am. I like to make their days.”—August, age 7, plays a Little Mouse

6. “My role is really fast, really intense, it has a lot of character, and it’s got a bit of parkour, too. When the audience starts clapping along to the music… it’s kind of hard to describe. It gives me an adrenaline rush.”—Maxim, age 20, plays Harlequin and Spanish

7. “I was the one to produce this since the very beginning, so it’s something that I hold really close to my heart. Being a parent myself, I know how special it is each year to develop a kind of tradition for families around the Christmas holidays—it’s really what I call the magic of The Nutcracker.”—Chan Hon Goh C.M., Director of Goh Ballet and Executive Producer of The Nutcracker

8. “I was a mouse last year. But this year I’m a lamb and lambs have a lot more energy. There’s way more jumping. And the lamb costume gets way hotter.”—Marlowe, age 7, plays a Little Lamb

9. “I won’t lie, it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also a really great feeling. A big part of dancing, and what changes dance from a sport to an art, is the ability to perform. I try every show to just focus on the audience, because you have to have faith in your training to a certain point. You just have to let it all go on stage and really perform, because its not about you, its about everybody else, and about telling the story.”  —Nicholas, age 15, plays the Nutcracker Prince