My home rink puts on the Nutcracker on Ice every year-- upwards of 200 kids in roles from tot "Dream Fairies" (invented for our production) to the traditional Sugar Plum Fairy. Rehearsals started this week, and as always they are a blast.
The last three years I've been choreographing the Battle Scene between the Toy Soldiers and the Mice, but decided to try something different this year and took on the little boys, who have another invented part, "Royal Soldiers." There's just 6 of them, but it should be pretty cute-- you have to balance the boys' need to be a little crazy, and the fact that it's a show with a lot of people on the ice at once so they pretty much have to do the same thing every night (6 full dress performances, including the dress rehearsal).
Different coaches approach rehearsals differently. I like to choreograph ahead of time and teach the kids as much of the program as possible the first day and then work at cleaning it up. Some coaches like to make it up as they go along, to the extent that some groups are still getting choreography in far along rehearsals. But it all seems to work and come together in the end.
I love doing the Nutcracker. To the kids it's as important as a major competition and I get really mad at the coaches who downplay this importance, especially to the competitive kids. It sets up a heirarachy, a false comparison "this is only important if you're not good enough for nationals." Not true. As the mother of a skater who went to nationals, I can tell you that Nutcracker was way more important to her-- her emotional investment in it was enormous, and you can't dismiss that.