At 7pm on Saturday, a Yellowknife dance group’s performance of The Nutcracker began at the city’s NACC theatre. At 7:01pm, the lights went out.
As a storm brought screaming winds, blowing snow and rolling power outages to Yellowknife, young dancers who had only just shuffled onto the stage were hastily escorted back off it.
But then, Bella Dance Academy owner and Nutcracker director Phoenix Smith had a moment of inspiration.
“Actually, everyone on-stage,” she told the dancers. “Who knows carols?”
The answer? Some of the kids knew some parts of some carols. The 20-minute performance that followed lit up a darkened audience with a rollercoaster ride through a rickety repertoire.
“All the kids went out, I opened the curtains and they just started singing,” said Smith.
“And it was very lovely. It was festive and heartwarming and, yeah, some songs were much better than others.
“Like, The Twelve Days of Christmas went way, way off the rails.”
Who can blame them? You try reciting the verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas, right now, while I shut off the lights and the internet.
Audience members helped by shouting out the lyrics, in a performance illuminated only by NACC’s emergency lighting and the flashlights from smartphones. It is almost impossible to watch footage of the performance – with audience contributions – without laughing.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, however, were performed almost without a hitch. By that point, the dancers were even throwing caution to the wind.
“We’re not the choral society but we tried,” said Smith.
“There was one girl who came up to me halfway through and she’s like: ‘Can we do O Christmas Tree?’ Nobody knows O Christmas Tree!
“I asked her if she wanted to lead it and she said: ‘No.'”
Meanwhile, with one eye on the clock and an entire Nutcracker still to run, Smith decided she would keep the carols going till 7:30. If the power hadn’t returned by then, the whole thing might be called off.
Like a Christmas miracle, after a full 25 minutes of carols, the lights came back on at 7:26pm.
“The audience were cheering for us. The carols really got the audience on our side and they were great. They probably appreciated our dancing a lot more than our singing,” said Smith.
The storm returned for an encore – a later power outage kept volunteers waiting till 11:45pm to finish loading out after the show – but the young dancers, Smith concluded, “were amazing.”
“I’m super proud of them,” she said. “They just adapted and carried on. The show must go on.”