Frequently Asked Questions


- How much does it cost to participate in The Nutcracker?

There is no audition fee. There is, however, a $200 performance fee for all dancers who are cast in The Nutcracker. The performance fee helps cover the cost of auditions, rehearsals, choreographic fees, and costumes (including design, alteration, repair, cleaning, and storage). GCB organizes a voluntary fundraising program specifically to assist families that need help covering the cost of the performance fee.

All roles require dancers to provide their own personal dance equipment (ballet slippers, tights, leotards) and some roles require additional costume pieces that are personal to your child and not provided by GCB. Party Scene girls, for example, purchase a custom hairpiece, which cannot be reused by future casts, and some roles require black ballet slippers or character shoes.

- When do rehearsals start?

In general, rehearsals begin the weekend after auditions and continue every weekend until performances. This equates to (12) weekends of rehearsals in the studio before moving into "tech week" which takes place at the theater. During the Thanksgiving holiday, choreographers try to schedule rehearsals only on Sunday of that weekend.

- Who determines casting?

A Casting Committee (which includes the Artistic Director, all choreographers for the season, and an independent adjudicator hired specifically to attend auditions for the oldest two age groups) is invited to observe auditions. These are the only people allowed to view auditions. It is the job of the independent adjudicator to identify all soloists, including the selection of Clara, and make recommendations to the Artistic Director. The Artistic Director has final authority over casting. The GCB Board of Directors is not involved in any way with casting.

- Can dancers audition for only the roles they want?

GCB auditions dancers for The Nutcracker, not specific roles. Every role is important to the production as a whole. If a dancer is disappointed with casting one year, he/she might be delighted the following year. We are disheartened and feel badly when dancers drop out of the production because they (or their parents) are unhappy with casting. It also creates a lot of work to fill those vacated spots. Before auditioning, dancers should all reflect on whether their desire to participate depends on winning a specific role(s) or simply having the opportunity to be part of a larger community event.

- When and how will the final cast be announced?

The final cast list is posted on the GCB website by Wednesday or Thursday following auditions.

- What roles can dancers expect if they audition year after year?

Casting depends on many factors, including the number and skill level of dancers who audition, our costume inventory (we are often restricted by size and quantity), and the type of roles offered by any given Artistic Director. There is no automatic progression from one role to the next (i.e. a Gingersnap does not automatically become a Mouse the following year). A dancer may repeat the same role year after year, and may never be cast in certain roles. The Artistic Director makes an effort to consider prior roles each dancer has had, but casting over 100 performers is a complicated process and, unfortunately, there are sometimes disappointments.

- If I volunteer to be an adult in the Party Scene, will my child automatically be cast as a Party Girl or Boy?

No. Please join the Party Scene without any expectation that your dancer(s) will be cast with you in this scene.

- Are Party Scene adults charged the $200 performance fee?

No, Party Scene adults are not required to pay the $200 performance fee.

Party Scene adults are such an important part of The Nutcracker production! GCB recognizes the enormous time commitment that is required of these community members and volunteers. As a Party Scene adult, you will receive weekly rehearsals and dance instruction, costumes, and (6) performance opportunities. In exchange, GCB invites each Party Scene adult to make a donation that is personally meaningful.

- Why does GCB require parents to volunteer their time in addition to paying the $200 performance fee?

In 2017, we asked parents to submit their volunteer hours. With 79 parents reporting, GCB received 1693 volunteer hours (which at $8.30 minimum wage is a financial contribution of more than $14,000). Quite simply, GCB could not afford to produce The Nutcracker (at our current level of quality and professionalism) without all hands on deck.

Here is one testimonial that speaks to the issue... "As a parent initially reluctant to volunteer, after doing so I now understand the necessity. Volunteering really builds The Nutcracker community, adds to the performance magic, and gives all those involved a greater pride in the final production."

- Why is attendance at "tech" week (the last week of rehearsals in the Montana Theater) mandatory?

Transferring what dancers learn in the studio to the actual theater space is challenging, especially for younger children. The stage is a different dimension, which means that spacing needs to be reworked for each variation. Dancers must learn where to enter and exit through multiple side wings, and younger dancers sometimes even have trouble facing forward towards the audience. Performers must adapt to darkness backstage, bright lights on stage, unfamiliar scenery and props, plus learn to take direction from theater staff and stage managers. Each of the individual roles must be integrated and rehearsed within the context of the entire show. This is also the first time dancers are getting used to their costumes. Multiple light, sound, drop, set, and curtain cues must be practiced. Since the vast majority of our performers are school aged, we are constrained to late afternoons and evenings for final rehearsals, and have only (5) days to practice in the theater before the show opens. Ultimately, for the safety of all performers, especially our youngest dancers, tech week is a critical time. This rigorous schedule may not be appropriate for all children or families, and we urge everyone to carefully consider this enormous commitment before auditioning.

- Why is the entire cast expected to stay through the whole performance and then appear on stage for the final curtain bow (especially when only the stars are highlighted, and younger dancers could otherwise go home earlier)?

A full company bow is a tradition that allows the audience and performers to acknowledge a shared journey and say "thank you" to each other—much as all dancers do at the end of each ballet class in what is called “reverence.”  It is the only time that audience members will be able to show appreciation for the dancers’ long hours of hard work.

Former Artistic Director Michele Antonioli shares, "one of my favorite moments is the transformation from a single dancer on stage with her Nutcracker as the ballet ends to the quite impressive arrival onstage of 120 other performers in a matter of moments. It gives audiences a glimpse at the awesome size of our community and a reminder that everyone plays a key role in the unfolding of this magical story."

That said, if a parent prefers to take a dancer home and not participate in bows, please let us know in advance of the show. Otherwise, we may be looking for a dancer that has actually left the building.

- Why do returning families have to attend two mandatory meetings (September parent/cast meeting and December theater meeting) if the information is basically the same every year?

Yes, it is true that some information is repeated year after year…. but, there is always new information as well.

On the esoteric side of the coin, we feel it is crucial and valuable for us all to come together — to get a sense of how massive the scope of our endeavor is, and be surrounded and energized by our GCB community. We circle the wagons once in September, right before the rehearsal season begins — when everything is new, exciting, a bit mysterious, and met with so much anticipation by our children. During this kick-off meeting, we introduce choreographers and Board members, plus the Artistic Director (which is a rotating position) has a chance to share personal philosophy, ideals and goals for the season. Anyone new to the organization can begin to put names and faces together, scope out possible carpools, and feel the excitement of being part of a larger community working towards a bigger goal. And, we typically meet our Clara! (This meeting runs between 30-45 minutes.)

We all come together a second time during “tech week” in the Montana Theater — after months of hard work are about to come to fruition, and we are poised to engage in the beautiful, incomparable act of making art together (the magic!). This theater meeting is an important time to connect with Committee Chairs, plus meet critical members of the theater staff. Dancers and families need to learn how our large group can function smoothly and safely in the complex, unpredictable world of live theatre. Yep, we review lots of rules. (This meeting runs about an hour.)

We are not going to take roll, or shame anyone for missing these meetings. We just hope new and old families alike find value in showing up.

- If shows are selling out, why doesn't GCB add more performances?

At this time, the only venue in Missoula that serves our facility needs is the Montana Theater, which is the main venue for UM's School of Theater & Dance. UM always schedules a holiday dance program to end its fall semester, and then GCB is able to schedule The Nutcracker the weekend after that. Due to the university’s schedule and the Christmas holiday, there is usually only one weekend available for our use. The Board has explored many options for additional performances (including selling tickets to Thursday night dress rehearsal, moving the school show to Thursday and adding a Friday public matinee, and adding a Monday school or evening show) but there are complications to consider before moving ahead with any of these options. In addition to facility and scheduling constraints, additional shows would incur more production expenses (thus increasing our need to raise funds), and require more parent volunteer help. Please let us know if you have any ideas.

- How can I join the Board of Directors?

The Board is always interested in meeting anyone who wishes to join or learn more about the duties and commitment of service. There are two open invitations made each year to individuals in our Nutcracker community (one at the fall parent/cast meeting, and a second invitation in the post-production survey). It is expected that each member will make a commitment to serve at least two years, and make an annual financial donation to GCB that is personally meaningful. If you are interested in learning more, please contact: info@gardencityballet.org