Who can audition?
Auditions are free and open to all dancers regardless of studio affiliation (including high school graduates, college students, alumni, and members of the general community). The minimum age is 7 years old (on or before the MCPS kindergarten cut-off date for the school year) and there is no maximum age. It is required, however, that all dancers (except adults in the Party Scene) be enrolled specifically in a ballet class (not jazz, modern, tap, hip hop, etc.).
How much does it cost to participate in The Nutcracker?
There is non-refundable performance tuition fee of $300* per dancer. This much-needed income helps cover production costs associated with auditions, rehearsals, instructor fees, theater rental, costumes (design, alteration, repair, cleaning), sets, insurance, storage, and more. GCB organizes an optional fundraising program specifically to assist families that need financial help with the cost of tuition.

All roles require dancers to provide their own personal dance equipment (i.e. ballet slippers, pointe shoes, tights, leotards, dance belts). Additionally, some roles require personal accessories that are not provided by GCB. For example, Party Scene girls purchase a custom hairpiece.

*Please note that the performance tuition fee may increase as costs associated with the production continue to rise.

Are Party Scene adults charged the same required performance tuition fee?
No, Party Scene adults are not required to pay the standard performance tuition. We do, however, rely on personally meaningful donations from this group of dancers. 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 asks each Party Scene adult to make a tax-deductible donation that is personally meaningful.
Who determines casting?
A Casting Committee (which includes the Artistic Director, Assistant Artistic Director, all choreographers for the season, and an independent adjudicator hired specifically for older age groups) will observe auditions. These are the only people allowed to view auditions (unless we hire a videographer). It is the job of the independent adjudicator to identify and rank order all soloists, including Clara, and make recommendations to the Artistic Director. The Artistic Director has final authority over casting.
Is the Board of Directors involved in casting?
No, board members are not involved in casting. Board members (and their children) learn about final casting at the same time as all of the other parents and dancers. Board members do not view auditions, or receive any special consideration for their children who audition.
Can dancers audition for only the roles they want?
GCB auditions dancers for The Nutcracker production, but not for specific roles. Every role is important to the production as a whole. If a dancer is disappointed with casting one year, that same dancer might be delighted the following year. It is disheartening when dancers drop out of the production because they (or their parents) are unhappy with casting. 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.
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 sometimes 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. Dancers are not automatically cast in roles based on their grade level — high school seniors, for example, are not automatically cast in the Snow Scene.
When and how will the final cast be announced?
The final cast list will typically be posted on the GCB website on Labor Day.
Are the youngest dancers automatically cast as Gingersnaps?
Generally speaking, most dancers (ages 7-8) who are new to our Nutcracker will be cast as a Gingersnap. Another possible role for our youngest dancers is Little Mouse. Sometimes, depending on audition numbers, we “double cast” certain roles, especially the Gingersnaps — Cast A performs in three shows, and Cast B performs in three shows. This is a gentler way to introduce our youngest performers to the demands of tech week and performance weekend. Even if your child is capable of dancing a more demanding role, we know that being a Gingersnap is an experience that will be treasured. We would not want any young dancer to miss out on this special opportunity!
Why do Gingersnaps pay the full performance fee if they are double cast and appear in only three of six shows?
The performance fee covers tuition for instruction each week and is the same for each student regardless of stage time. For example, stage time is not the same for Clara vs. Angels vs. Party Scene vs. Gingersnaps. Whether a Gingersnap is in 3 or 6 shows, the dancer still needs 12 weeks of rehearsal and still needs to be fitted in a costume. When possible we intentionally double cast the Gingersnaps. Tech week is grueling, even for veteran dancers. The time required at the theatre for six performances is exhausting. For some young dancers it is simply too much, and makes for a negative experience for the entire family – we want our youngest dancers to enjoy their introduction to Nutcracker, and come back next year!
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.
When do rehearsals start?
In general, rehearsals begin the weekend after Labor Day and continue every weekend until performances — rehearsals take place on Friday evening, Saturday, and/or Sunday, depending on the role.  This equates to (12) weekends of rehearsals in the studio before moving into Tech Week which takes place at the theater. During Thanksgiving break, choreographers try to schedule rehearsals only on Sunday of that weekend. All rehearsals after Thanksgiving weekend are mandatory.
Why doesn't GCB have live music (i.e. Missoula Symphony) for The Nutcracker?
A few years ago, GCB met with the Missoula Symphony director and UM Montana Theatre staff to discuss the possibility of live music. The only location suitable for a 30-piece orchestra is behind the back drop in the production bay. The audience would not see the musicians, and the music would be amplified through speakers. The orchestra pit itself is too small. For these reasons, we have not made this a priority, but as technology improves, we remain open to the possibility someday!
Why does GCB require parents to volunteer their time in addition to paying the performance fee?
Each year, GCB receives approximately 2000 volunteer hours (which at minimum wage is a financial contribution of more than $16,000). Quite simply, GCB could not afford to produce The Nutcracker (at our current level of quality and professionalism) without all hands on deck. Party Adult parents are exempt from the (3) shift volunteer requirements on SignUp, though many do help out with scenery load in and set up, costume transportation, and strike!

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.”

Can families buy-out of the volunteer requirement?
This is something GCB has considered as an option for families who are not in a position to volunteer, but it requires further careful thought.

GCB depends on all families to work in the dressing room, transport costumes, assemble sets, sell concessions, help backstage, and so forth. If parents don’t do this work, GCB would have to hire others (outside of our community of families) to fill these positions or eliminate programs like Flowers. Part of what makes the culture of this Nutcracker so wonderful is our “all hands on deck” philosophy.

Our goal every year is 100% family participation, and we require each family to sign up for a minimum of (3) volunteer shifts. If you are personally unable to volunteer, you may ask a friend or relative to stand in for you. If your family is unable to volunteer or find a suitable volunteer replacement, please let us know.

Why is Tech Week (in the Montana Theater) mandatory for all performers?
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 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 a time that audience members show appreciation for all of the dancers.

Michele Antonioli (former Artistic Director) 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 more than 100 other performers in a matter of moments. It gives the audience a glimpse at the awesome size of our community and is 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 stay until the show ends to participate in bows, please let us know you would like to opt out of all bows. Be sure to communicate before leaving with your dancer…. 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.

More importantly, 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 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 (a rotating position) has a chance to share personal philosophy 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 Clara! (This meeting runs approx. 45-60 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 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 mandatory meetings. We just hope new and old families alike find value in showing up and being informed.

If shows are selling out, why doesn't GCB add more performances? And, why do you schedule Nutcracker so close to Christmas?
At this time, the only venue in Missoula that serves our needs is the Montana Theatre, which is the main venue for UM’s School of Theatre & Dance. UM typically schedules a holiday dance program to end its fall semester, and then GCB is able to schedule The Nutcracker the weekend after that (which falls on the weekend after finals). Due to the university’s academic and holiday schedule, 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) in order to meet demand for the show.
Are dancers allowed to greet family and friends in the lobby before or after performances?
The short answer is no, and the current policy is explained here.
How can I join the Board of Directors?
The Board works all year and is always interested in meeting anyone who wishes to join or learn more about the duties and commitment of service. The Board holds an annual spring “meet and greet” for all who are interested. If you are interested in learning more, please contact: info@gardencityballet.org