Nutcracker Prince relishes role

Every other year, Judy Russell Presents The Nutcracker, a family favourite during the holiday season in partnership with the Prince George Symphony Orchestra.

This year, The Nutcracker will take to the Vanier Hall stage from Thursday, Dec. 19, to Sunday, Dec. 22, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

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Russell saw a prince on stage when she saw Julian Hunt performing during last year's local music festival on the very stage he will perform on this Christmas.

Hunt, 19, came to Prince George from a dance studio in Terrace. He started to dance when he was 16 years old and things came together very quickly for him.

"He started so, so late in his life," Russell said. "You know for a dancer 16 is pretty late. But for a lot of young men that's really the time they should start. For some reason it seems that's a threshold age - almost every one of the young men that have come through the studio and have gone on - it was when they hit 16 that they made the decision they wanted to do it. That's when they are strong enough in their own soul and in what they do."

Russell knew she had to ask Hunt to perform this year and took a chance he would still be in the region.

"He said he decided to stay in north and central B.C. for his post-graduation year," Russell said. "That's how he can do this and it's been an excellent opportunity for all of us."

Hunt said from his start in dance until now has been an interesting journey.

Hunt went to a bring-a-friend day at a Terrace dance studio his best friend attended. He signed up for a recreational hip hop class and loved it.

"So that's when I decided to go for more training," Hunt said. He signed up for classes at Art in Motion in all the disciplines of dance including ballet, modern, hip hop and jazz.

He then was able to his exams for the Royal Academy of Dance.

Hunt said Russell asked him if he was interested in playing The Nutcracker Prince during the local dance festival held in March and by the time the provincial competition was held in Prince Rupert in May, it was a done deal.

"It was really cool to be asked," Hunt said. "It was definitely a surprise and it's a really big opportunity for me. Judy has put a lot of faith in me so I will definitely step up."

Rehearsals started mid-August and when Hunt goes back to Terrace, he practices five days a week. When he's in Prince George with the rest of the cast, he's here for a week at a time for rehearsals with his co-stars and once December hits he will be in town until the end of the show.

There are always two people who share the role of Clara, who will be the character who dances the most with the Prince during the show.

Kendra Hamelin and Sara McGowan are the two Claras this year.

Hunt says getting used to dancing with two different people in the same role also presents a challenge.

"Sara is taller than Kendra so working with them it's almost like a different dance each time," Hunt said.

"So being able to practice with both of them is super important."

Hunt is looking forward to being the Prince in The Nutcracker. He's got family and friends who will be coming from Terrace to watch his performance.

"Standing on the stage for the first performance is probably going to feel like a dream," Hunt said. "It's going to be a really magical production."

Tickets are on sale at centralinteriortickets.com.

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