The 43-year-old instructor at Greater York Dance had performed as a guest in the party scene for each annual production. She likes the music of the candy cane dance and used to mimic some of the moves while standing in the wings of the stage.
"It's a lot of fun, and a lot of energy goes into it," she said. "The audience just goes crazy."
When artistic director Lori Pergament asked Harper if she'd like to be a candy cane this year, Harper thought Pergament was kidding.
Harper and her 16-year-old daughter Katie will perform the dance together in "The Nutcracker" on Saturday and Sunday at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York. About 100 dancers from GYD and the Midstate Ballet also will perform in the show, which is in its 14th year.
Pergament said the organization changed and upgraded every scene of the show this year.
"It's just part of our mission and part of my job to make sure everything is constantly being improved upon," she said.
The candy cane dance happens after Clara enters the land of sweets. It lasts only a minute and 20 seconds, Katie said, but it involves a lot of jumping and turning.
"It's very difficult," she said. "You're just jumping at your full amount."
Michele Harper said she recently lost a lot of weight and that she stretched a lot to prepare for the role. Katie also has helped - the duo sometimes practices in their Dover Township kitchen.
"It takes a lot of stamina and endurance - especially because I've been dancing with 16- and 17-year-olds," Harper said.
Katie said it's cool to see her mom perform, and compare their strengths and techniques.
"I got my jumping ability from her," Katie said.
Michele Harper said it's amazing to dance with Katie on stage.
"It's an opportunity a lot of people will never have, and I cherish it," she said.
- Leigh Zaleski,
If you go
WHAT: Greater York Dance presents "The Nutcracker"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York
COST: $18 to $45
DETAILS: Call 717-846-1111 or visit www.strandcapitol.org