November 2020 update on live performances and events at the NAC.

The Nutcracker: The numbers behind the sparkle

Jennifer Gibson, Alberta Ballet Company in The Nutcracker © Photo: Paul McGrath
Alberta Ballet Company artists in The Nutcracker © Photo: Gerard Yunker
Alberta Ballet Company artists in The Nutcracker © Photo: Charles Hope

Alberta Ballet is one of the many outstanding Canadian arts organizations that the National Arts Centre partners with every year. Under the leadership of its artistic director Jean Grand-Maître, the company has become known for high-quality dance and inventive repertoire, as evidenced by their recent collaborations with kd Lang, Joni Mitchell and Elton John.

This holiday season, as the NAC prepares to present Alberta Ballet’s lavish production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Edmund Stripe, we take a look at some of the lesser-known elements of this dazzling show... strictly by the numbers:

The costumes

329 – Number of costumes made in house in Calgary, and in design studios in New York, Montreal and Chicago

137 – Number of accessories used in this production

60 to 90  – Hours of labour to create a single tutu

100 – Yards of tulle and ruffle used

3,500 – Cost in dollars of each tutu

The shoes

3 to 7– Lifespan in days of pointe shoes worn by The Nutcracker dancers

100 – Cost in dollars of one pair of pointe shoes

100,000 – Alberta Ballet’s annual pointe shoe budget

The athleticism

1.5 – Tons of ballerinas that a male dancer lifts during a performance

2 – Duration in hours of The Nutcracker, equivalent to playing two 90-minute soccer games, back-to-back

32 – Fouetté turns that a ballerina completes during a performance. (The foutté turn is performed on the exact same spot on the floor. After the show, a ballerina’s pointe shoe is hot to the touch. It is so worn out that it can only be worn in rehearsal from then on.)

The crew

2, 4, 6, 4, 6 and 1Backstage crew or running crew needed for one performance of The Nutcracker:

2 people to move  props
4 stage carpenters to move scenery
6 electricians
4 fly-men to move backdrops and soft scenery
6 wardrobe people
1 audio person

17 – Backdrops (measuring 75 feet wide by 35 feet high) used in the show

 3 – Number of weeks it takes one person to make a backdrop, whether painted or covered in fabric or other materials

The sparkle

2008 – Year The Nutcracker premiered in Calgary, with costumes by American opera and ballet costume designer, Zack Brown

160 – Number of sparkling costumes in the production, which takes place in Imperial Russia

350 to 700 – Hours it takes every year to maintain, repair, rebuild and fit costumes

3,500 – Approximate cost in dollars it takes to create each costume(The wardrobe department’s favorite part of The Nutcracker is the snowflake scene:  a magical, winter wonderland where the ballerinas are dressed like little czarinas in romantic tutus.)

5 – Weight in pounds of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu. This classical tutu has 13 layers of tulle and one layer of cream brocade, with a beautiful golden thread woven through the fabric.

6,000 – Number of Swarovski crystal rhinestones glued by hand on the costumes worn in this production

500 – Amount, in dollars spent every year to replace  rhinestones that fall off during performances

35 – Number of wigs and hairpieces in the production

The stars of the show

60 to 80 – Number of children recruited to dance in The Nutcracker in every city the production visits

4 – Number of hours needed by the wardrobe department to fit the children in costumes in each city