It's become a beloved classic throughout the world, and a popular holiday mainstay of New Mexico's oldest continuing ballet company.
The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet's 29th annual production of "The Nutcracker" ballet is ready once again to showcase the talents of area dancers and warm the hearts of audiences, at performances Thursday through Dec. 23 at New Mexico State University's Atkinson Music Center Recital Hall.
E.T.A. Hoffman's imaginative tale, set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's musical score, is particularly dear to the heart of native Las Crucen Kevin Self, whose late wife, Michele, founded the LCCB.
"I've been involved every year, even 2006, the year Michele died, because we wanted to do it for her. And Michele was in every one, even when she was going through chemo," said Self, who returned to Las Cruces after a stellar career in New York, where he danced with the famed Agnes DeMille and with the American Ballet Theatre.
Even after nearly three decades, he's still amazed at the community spirit that fuels "Nutcracker" productions and the dedication of generations of dancers and volunteers, many from the same families.
"This year, we have a cast of 76 and 126 costumes. The whole production involves well over 100 people. And nobody asks to get paid. I marvel at how it all gets done," Self said.
Some surprises are in store for the 2013 production, Self hinted. But this year's "Nutcracker" will focus on refinements of 2011 innovations, including an Act I
backdrop designed and constructed by Bob Diven and a "Ladies' Tea Party."
The ballet "will feature animated dolls, Harlequin and Columbine, portrayed by Jade Kelley and Baylee Banks, in addition to the sword-wielding Sultan (Sky Blue). After a chaotic and whimsical battle scene, you'll be soothed by scampering snowflakes and their Snow Queen, Seattle Eberwine," Self reports.
Brigid Walker will be Clara, and Audrey Pelay will portray her brother, Fritz.
"Once you arrive in the Land of the Sweets, new choreography for the Russians, BonBons and Chinese should satisfy your sweet tooth. Lead Chinese (Fayth Franzoy) leaps from her lantern-bearing rickshaw and the Mirlitons (Serina Macias, Sarah Devore) dance away while their lambs go astray. Presiding over her realm will be Jacquelin Huerta as Sugar Plum Fairy," Self said.
This year's Mother Gingers will be Ken Binkley of Wilson Binkley Advertising, George Escobedo of Billy the Kid Salon, Melinda Bennett-Shane, school psychologist and owner of Desert Hills Pools, and Audrey Hartley, philanthropist and writer. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday Dec. 23.
Tickets, at $19 and $21, are available at the Pan Am Box Office, 575-646-1420 or Ticketmaster.com. For information, call Michele's Dance Academy, 575-527-1893.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore
Las Cruces Chamber Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'
When: Thursday through Dec. 23
Where: NMSU's Atkinson Hall
How much: $19 and 21 Pan Am Center Ticket Office, 575-646-1420, or Ticketmaster.com
Info: Michele's Dance Academy, 575-527-1893
About 'The Nutcracker'
Here's the downlow on the beloved holiday classic.
Sources: nutcrackerballet.net, classicalmusic.about.com and Kevin Self, Las Cruces Chamber Ballet
Based on: "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice," written by E.T.A. Hoffman, original ballet envisioned by Marius Petipa based on a story revision by French author Alexander Dumas
Music by: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
First performed: 1892
First performed in Las Cruces: 1983
Popularized: In modern times by George Ballanchine's 1954 production
The story: Clara, a young German girl, dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
The Party Scene: It is Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house, a large and grand house with the most beautiful tree imaginable. The Stahlbaums are hosting their annual Christmas party, welcoming the arrival of their family and friends. The children, Clara and Fritz, are dancing and playing as they welcome their friends, too. The party grows festive with music and dance as godfather Drosselmeyer arrives. He is a skilled clock and toy maker and always full of surprises.
Drosselmeyer draws everyone's attention as he presents two life-size dolls. They are the delight of the party, each taking a turn to dance. The children begin to open gifts when Drosselmeyer presents his to Clara and Fritz. Although his gift to Fritz is quite nice, he gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that becomes the hit of the party. Fritz becomes jealous and, having a bit more spunk than a boy should have, grabs the Nutcracker from Clara and promptly breaks it. Clara is heartbroken looking on as Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air. The guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening. Clara, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him, falling asleep with him in her arms.
The Fight Scene: As the clock strikes midnight, strange things begin to happen. Clara begins shrinking as her Christmas tree grows high above her. The toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and battles him one-on-one. The Nutcracker seems to be no match for the Mouse King. The Nutcracker and his army can go on no longer and are captured by the mice and their king. Clara makes a final daring charge, throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head. The Mouse King drops to the floor and the mice run away, carrying off their leader's lifeless body.
The Land of Snow: The Nutcracker turns into a prince and takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes.
The Land of Sweets: The Prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances: Spanish, Arabian, Russian, Chinese, the Mirliton Dance and the Waltz of Flowers.
The Dream Ends: Clara awakens and finds herself by her Christmas tree with her beloved Nutcracker.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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