Trying for Tchaikovsky

Three glimpses into the right-of-passage known as auditioning for NBT’s The Nutcracker

Back in mid-September, Nicky Bowers pinned the No. 100 to the front of her 7-year-old daughter Charlotte’s leotard—a pale pink to offset the girl’s strawberry-blond features. Then Charlotte joined a line of 40 other bare-legged ballerinas who haven’t yet graduated to the tights of a Level One Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) Academy student. While Nicky waited in NBT’s grand marble lobby, Charlotte and the others disappeared behind a set of tall frosted doors.

During the two-hour audition for the role of Mini-Mouse in NBT’s production of The Nutcracker, Nicky tried to sneak peeks through a slit in the doors. Finally, Charlotte emerged, clutching a ticket in her hand. Nicky, a self-admitted Nutcracker nut, hoped this meant good news. It did. Many of the other dancers, the ticketless ones, ran to bury their faces into the laps of their waiting parents. But Nicky and Charlotte celebrated the first time that the young girl would be performing in the show—and she’s been watching the classic on DVD since she was 18 months old.


Jacki DePari is well-acquainted with NBT’s audition process. At 12, she’s already performed in three NBT Nutcracker productions. In fact, on audition day, she didn’t bother to have her parents accompany her, taking a carpool instead. Dressed in the red leotard of a Level Five student, she chatted with friends and stretched toned legs, awaiting the call for Party Girl candidates. Last year, DePari didn’t win this role—she was a Baker—but an additional year of training had her hopeful.

Behind the frosted doors, the 45 girls auditioning for the 12 available roles were separated into smaller groups. Then, an instructor performed choreography for them to repeat—arabesques, glissades, ballet runs and skips—for a panel of five judges, including Academy instructors, an NBT professional and NBT artistic director James Canfield.

When these older girls finally did materialize from the studio, two hours later, the scene was only slightly different from Charlotte’s. Instead of crying into their parents’ thighs, the older girls leaned into each other’s shoulders, or hustled out of the building to shed their tears privately.

As for DePari, she emerged triumphant, earning the role of Party Girl as well as the newer role of Salt Water Taffy Sailor, a role unique to NBT choreographer Peter Anastos’ version of The Nutcracker. While NBT has been performing The Nutcracker for more than 25 years, last year marked the debut performance of Anastos’ more humorous rendition. “It’s a fun dance where we’re supposed to act like drunken sailors,” DePari says.


NBT professional Barrington Lohr is 23 years old, and one of the 30 pro dancers who will share the stage with the 90 young dancers (135 auditioned) cast this year. He began dancing at 16, then went on to graduate from the Las Vegas Academy. Along the way, he danced in numerous Nutcracker productions—playing roles such as the Nutcracker, the Mouse King and Cavalier.

Company members do not audition for roles—rather, they are assigned them. Since September, Barrington’s been learning and practicing multiple roles under the scrutiny of the Canfield and Anastos. However, it was only in early November that the final casting decisions were posted in the studio; this is how Lohr learned that he would be dancing the role of Arabian, for a third year. As a professional, Lohr trusts that the role he’s been assigned is the best part for him, and he’s thrilled for any opportunity to dance.