CREATIVE PEAKS: Ultimate Dance Party

By on December 8, 2015

DW and the San Diego Ballet perform ‘The Nutcracker’ with wide array of audiences in mind.

‘The Nutcracker’ veterans San Diego Ballet team up with Dancers’ Workshop pupils to perform a classic holiday story. (Photo: dancers’ workshop)

‘The Nutcracker’ veterans San Diego Ballet team up with Dancers’ Workshop pupils to perform a classic holiday story. (Photo: dancers’ workshop)

Jackson, WY – As members of Dancers’ Workshop’s Junior Repertory Company practice the dance of the mirlitons in “The Nutcracker,” they have an instructor who knows exactly what they are going through to learn the challenging dance — performed entirely on pointe — with the added pressure of sharing the stage with professional dancers.

In 2002 Cady Cox was a high school student and member of the same junior repertory company for which she is now co-director. She was one of the student dancers chosen to perform as a mirliton during a performance of “The Nutcracker” the first time the San Diego Ballet visited Jackson.

The production created a magical world for the audience, but also taught Cox and the other dancers what it was like to perform with professionals.

The San Diego Ballet is back in Jackson this week and once again the pros will share the stage with Dancers’ Workshop students.

The classic story of “The Nutcracker” begins at a Christmas party when Clara, danced by Dancers’ Workshop student Annika Peacock, receives a toy nutcracker.

Told through dance, the story follows Clara as she travels through a dream world in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

“It’s become a classic and tradition around the holidays,” said Rachel Holmes, school director at Dancers’ Workshop.

Featuring wonderful music and mysterious, whimsical and magical characters, “The Nutcracker” is a fantasy story that transports people back to childhood.

Dancers’ Workshop presented the same ballet last year with the Eugene Ballet after several years of putting on original productions during the holiday season.

The goal is to expose students, but also the community, to different types of dance and productions, Holmes said.

Creating an original production is totally different from bringing in professional dancers to work with students, she said. It’s a rare chance to dance beside and learn from professionals.

“Younger dancers have the older girls to look up to, and the older girls have the pro dances to look up to,” Holmes said.

This combination elevates the level of dance of the students, but also of the entire production, making it an event that appeals to people other than just the parents of Dancers’ Workshop students, she said.

Every version of “The Nutcracker,” is different. The San Diego Ballet’s production offers more roles for students. There were more than 100 parts available for dancers six years old and up. During the Saturday and Sunday matinee performance, older students at Dancers’ Workshop will perform some of the more challenging featured roles. Along with Clara, another main role, that of the Prince, is also played by a local student, Mac Needham.

San Diego Ballet has toured “The Nutcracker” for about 18 years, Javier Velasco, the company director, said. They take the production on the road, arriving in communities with all the costumes and set pieces.

For many kids it’s their first time performing on stage.

“There’s a joy in seeing young performers and what they can discover being on stage and the reward that can come from hard work,” he said.

The company designs roles specifically for dancers as young as 6 and scales other parts progressively so there is something for every level of dancer, he said.

“We are sensitive to the tradition, but we are also sensitive to the fact that we are living in the 21st century and people take in information differently,” he said. “Our show is quick, with humor and beauty. Some productions are very leisurely, ours is the opposite.”

For many people, “The Nutcracker,” is the only ballet production they’ll see. The goal is to make the experience exciting, entertaining and accessible, Velasco said. It’s beautifully danced and colorful and should leave audience members with a positive impression of seeing a ballet.

“We don’t want people to think or feel they are looking at a museum piece,” he said.

The show runs this weekend. After the Saturday matinee performance, the audience can stay for a special meet-and-greet tea party where people can look at the sets and costumes up close and collect autographs from the dancers. PJH

“The Nutcracker,” featuring San Diego Ballet and Dancers’ Workshop students, 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 1:30 p.m., Saturday; 3 p.m., Sunday, Center for the Arts, $35 for adults, $15 for students for evening performances; $30 for adults and $10 students for matinees.


About Kelsey Dayton

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