Robert Gardener started his life in dance as a mouse.
A mouse in the perennial holiday favorite The Nutcracker, that is.
Then, as so many dancers do, he moved up in the ranks of the cast as he gained experience and skill.
After 25 years in Duluth, over 30 years of dancing Tchaikovsky's lush score and three different productions of Allen Field's choreography, Gardner is the artistic director and ballet master of the Minnesota Ballet.
So where does the man at the pinnacle of the company go for inspiration and ideas?
You guessed it: the mice.