This year on December 12th, tiny toes will step out onto the stage of Rowland Auditorium. They will follow in the footsteps of their veteran performers with eyes wide and smiles beaming, and contribute for the first time to an age-old favorite.
The Nutcracker will be presented by Athletic Arts Center. In its seventh year, the production is becoming a tradition for its performers as well as the public. Although the story is the same from year to year, the community remains enchanted by this classic. Perhaps this is because each year, The Nutcracker performers always have something new to bring to the stage.
“This is my seventh year—I’ve been doing The Nutcracker since the first production,” says 12 year-old Kimberly Hiller, who was also the very first Clara. This year, Kimberly is playing the coveted role of the Dew Drop Fairy, an advanced role that uses pointe shoes. “I think it’s fun for people to come back every year and see the performers grow and develop in different roles. It makes it interesting,” she remarks.
“The Nutcracker just gets better and better each year,” says 12 year-old Ginny Posey, who has also performed in The Nutcracker since its first showing in 2009. “People always want to come back for more. The roles change, the costumes change, the sets and the difficulty of the dances have really developed. All of this change helps the production improve every time.”
This year, the mice and soldiers are getting new costumes, which are designed by Cindy Laing. The Center has also invested in new sets for this year’s production.
Fifteen year-old Amberlee Fisher says, “We’ve experimented with a lot; it’s fun to see what stays and what changes. Despite all of the developments, The Nutcracker is a timeless classic. It’s something that everyone can enjoy, and there’s always a fresh outlook each year. Some of our choreography this year is a lot different.”
For 22 year-old Kellie Giles, the magic of The Nutcracker isn’t necessarily its timelessness, but the effect that it has on its young performers. “It’s awesome to see how much bravery these kids have after participating in a production like this. I’ve been dancing here at Athletic Arts Center since I was 15 years-old. As a kid, I would have been scared to death to dance in such a large production but these kids are fearless. Now, I see how amazing it is to dig deep into one of these roles…you find out that you can express yourself in ways you never thought you could,” says the veteran performer.
“The most rewarding thing about this production is seeing the kids look forward to moving up in their roles each year, learning the new dances, putting their own artistic spin on it,” says Maria Ross, who has directed the Athletic Arts Center for nine years. “Of course, the choreography has developed as the dancers have become more technically advanced, but in a lot of ways it gets easier each year. Some things are challenging, but all good challenges, like adding new roles!”
“We have kids of all ages participate in this production,” she says. “The bon-bons are only 5 and 6 years-old; they come out of Mother Ginger’s skirt and dance. And it’s not just the Sugar Plum Fairy or the Dew Drop Fairy that are the coveted roles—it’s also the little bon-bons. The kids understand that all of the roles are important to tell the story to the audience. Everyone accepts the role that they’re in and realizes that it takes them doing their part to complete the story.”
Maria also notes that auditions for The Nutcracker are open to anyone. “The majority of the performers are our own students, but there are several performers who attend other dance studios in the area that come and perform with us.” 78
The 7th Annual Production of The Nutcracker will be performed on Saturday, December 12th at 7:00pm and on Sunday, December 13th at 2:00pm at Rowland Auditorium on the Bevill State Community College Jasper Campus.