Birmingham Ballet's 'Mutt-cracker' auditions are Sunday; Pig the Unusual Dog may return for an encore

Editor's note: Photo gallery is from the 2015 Mutt-cracker rehearsals.

Calling all dogs.

Auditions for Birmingham Ballet’s Mutt-cracker will be held Sunday, Oct. 23, from 2 until 4 p.m. at the Birmingham Ballet’s Performing Arts Centre at 2198 Columbiana Road in Vestavia Hills.

Last year, a record 31 dogs participated in the performance, which is a benefit for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. The performance will be on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the BJCC Concert Hall.

And, once again, Pig the Unusual Dog is expected to perform.

Along with the dogs, about 125 humans will dance in the ballet. On Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11, Birmingham Ballet will perform the Nutcracker, without the dogs.

Cindy Free, director of the Birmingham Ballet, said the Mutt-cracker is “actually one of the best things we do. It is most unique, and it brings the community together in a very inclusive way. It’s a happy feeling to involve the dogs, and the families, and the dancers. Everybody becomes unified in the effort. It’s unmatched by any other performance that we do.”

This is the fifth year for the Mutt-cracker. Last year’s 31 dogs were a record. Free is hoping to have about the same amount this year.

Roles are available for dogs with or without special skills or behaviors. All dogs must be vaccinated, well-mannered, socialized and nonaggressive. For the audition Sunday, dogs must be on a leash.

Free says all breeds are welcomed, but she’d really like to see some Huskies and Great Danes. Trainer and former ballet dancer Anne-Marie Mitchell will be back to work with the dogs.

Pig, the short-spined dog who became a worldwide sensation when discovered more than two years ago, just turned 3 years old and has since moved with her human, Kim Dillenbeck, from Helena to Pleasant Grove.

“I would love for her to do Mutt-cracker again,” said Dillenbeck. “I didn’t find it to be stressful for her.”

For Pig’s third birthday on Sunday, Dillenbeck took the amazing pup to a cookout near Jemison, where about 22 people enjoyed barbecue and fun. Dillenbeck said Pig played in the woods and rolled around in the grass.

Pig’s health is good, and her ultimate goal is to become a therapy dog for Hand in Paw. She is being trained at Creative Dog Training.

Many Birmingham Ballet dancers who have previously worked with dogs in the Mutt-cracker will be back this year, Free said, including Carl Dean as Drosselmeyer.

Stay tuned for ticket information for the Mutt-cracker and for performances of The Nutcracker.

Joey Kennedy

Joey Kennedy is president and publisher of Animal Advocates of Alabama. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy worked for more than 33 years at The Birmingham News.

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