By Kaitlin Candelaria
The Birmingham Ballet is putting a fun twist on a classic tale – by adding in a few tails of its own this holiday season.
The fourth annual Mutt-cracker is a one-night-only performance featuring dogs in appropriate roles. Cindy Free, director of the Birmingham Ballet, says that audience members can expect to see furry friends of all sizes.
“They’re all shapes and sizes of dogs,” she said. “We have everything from a two-pound chihuahua to a great Dane. We have dogs that jump through hoops and hop on their hind legs and spin like a ballerina. It’s just a really fun show.”
This year, Pig the Unusual Dog, a local dog born with birth defects who has gained fame through social media, will perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dog.
“Pig is quite famous,” Free said. “She loves her pink tutu. This is the first time we’ve had a dog to be the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dog and Pig is a very appropriate and dainty little thing.”
Dogs from all over the country auditioned to be a part of this year’s show and some will be driving from as far away as New Jersey for the Dec. 11 performance. More dogs have also been added to the lineup, with more than 30 performing this year. A portion of the proceeds from each ticket for the event will be donated to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society.
“The show flows very similar to the Nutcracker but something special is brought to it by the dogs,” Free said. “They have so much fun up there and add personality and character all their own. We never quite know what they’ll do.”
Free said they have a few tricks up their sleeves for handling the pooches during the show. The dog trainer behind the show, Anne Marie Mitchell, will dress up as characters to help corral the dogs or clean up after them in case of accidents. Free said occasionally some of the dogs will suffer from stage fright when performing in front of the large crowd.
“They’re like little people,” she said. “They have to rehearse and they have to get comfortable. Of course, the dogs who have done it for more than one year know their music and know their choreography.”
Tickets to the show range from $25 to $45 and can be purchased online at www.birminghamballet.com. The show will take place at the BJCC Concert Hall beginning at 7:30 p.m.