The Nutcracker has been beloved by audiences for more than 120 years, and has become an annual, must-see Christmas classic at ballet companies around the country. But one ballet company in Alabama is proving that anything can be improved by adding dogs.
The Mutt-Cracker (get it?) has become a yearly event for the Birmingham Ballet, and this year's shows reportedly drew "near-sellout" crowds.
Beginning in late October, the ballet company held auditions for dogs of all shapes, sizes, and talent levels. Many of the 29 dogs chosen to participate this year were rescues, abandoned by their former owners.
"Every year it's different because the dogs are different and they have different skills," Cindy Free, the ballet's executive director, told the Alabama Newscenter.
This year, the show-stealing prima ballerina was Pig, a mixed breed dog with "short spine syndrome," a rare condition where her legs grow to full size while her torso stays half its usual length.
Pig's owner, Kim Dillenbeck, rescued her as a puppy. She shares stories and pictures of her life with Pig with their more than 100,000 fans on the Facebook page "Pig the Unusual Dog," including behind-the-scenes snaps of Pig rehearsing her pirouettes before the big day.
Believe it or not, the ballet's human performers say the dogs take their rehearsal time seriously, and really improve.
Katherine Free, one of the company's dancers, says it's "amazing to see them grow from their rehearsals to being on the stage.
Money raised from both performances of the Mutt-Cracker this year will be donated to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, so these dogs can be proud all their hard work is for a good cause.