An old favorite gets a new look

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By Special to the Monitor

Dance Arts Los Alamos (DALA) is proud to present its 13th production of “The Nutcracker” as part of Los Alamos’ Winterfest weekend. Based on the story, “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” by E.T.A. Hoffman, and set to the beloved music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the ballet tells the story of Clara, her enigmatic Godfather Drosselmeyer and the magical nutcracker doll he brings her as a Christmas gift. “The Nutcracker” was first performed on Dec. 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg and has since become a traditional, must-see holiday event for the whole family.

The music may be familiar, but almost everything else about this year’s production of “The Nutcracker” – from costumes to staging – is new. DALA is honored to showcase the choreography of faculty member Christin Severini, a former dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York City.

She has performed extensively in full-length and repertory ballets across the United States and around the world. Now continuing her professional dancing career in New Mexico, Severini has introduced some stunning, original choreography into this year’s production.

DALA is also pleased to welcome back Bob and Sally Nolen, award-winning ballroom dance instructors for more than 30 years, as choreographers of the Party Parents’ dance for the second year.

Overall Party Scene choreography is provided by faculty member Valerie Silks, who is also costume mistress and director of the show. Faculty member Lisa Jaegers and former DALA instructor Megan Shepston-Overly also contributed impressive choreography.

The 2008 cast of “The Nutcracker” is the largest ever, with 109 cast members, 87 of whom are children, some as young as 4 years old. Perhaps the most coveted role for children is that of Clara, performanced this year by sixth-grader Jenna Erickson. 16-year-old Ruben Rascón of Velarde, in his role as the Nutcracker Prince, will partner with Erickson. Rascón has been dancing since the age of 8 and currently trains at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

DALA is excited to welcome as principal guest artists this year, dancing in the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier, Ayano Kimura and Josep Torné Tarragó, both of the prestigious Washington School of Ballet.

These talented young dancers and strong role models for DALA’s own youth are coached by world-famous Kee Juan Han, who began dancing in his native Singapore and is a former principal dancer with the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre and the Boston Ballet.

Three graduating seniors will be bidding farewell to “The Nutcracker” this year: Amanda Pabian, Caroline Wurden and Shelby Stringer.

Pabian appears as Lead Soldier, while Wurden and Stringer have each danced many different roles in the ballet.

Wurden has been in every production of “The Nutcracker” since the first 1995 show. Her roles have included Party Tot, Mouse, the Rose Queen, Chinese and Mirliton. This year, she will appear as a demi-soloist in the Snow scene and as the lead Spanish dancer. She is also a student teacher for DALA. Stringer, also a student teacher, first appeared as a Party Girl in “The Nutcracker” in 1996 and has since held many roles including Arabian, the Rose Queen, Mirliton and Chinese.

This year, Stringer performs as the Snow Queen. Other principal artists include Cody Maggiore (Clara’s brother, Fritz), Jeff Favorite (Godfather Drosselmeyer), Chris Jeffery (the Rat King), Holly Erickson (Angel), Bethany Letellier (Arabian), Emily Silks and Erin Burr (Mirliton), Lauren Burr (Peppermint), and Nicole Silks (the Rose Queen). “The Nutcracker” is produced by Michele DeCroix.

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Duane W. Smith Auditorium. Tickets are on sale at CB Fox and White Rock Ship It and cost $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children 12 and under. They will also be available at the door.

Dance Arts Los Alamos is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, now in its 16th year of promoting dance in northern New Mexico and providing safe, professional instruction and top-quality performances.

Registration for the spring semester at Dance Arts Los Alamos will begin soon. For more information about Dance Arts Los Alamos or “The Nutcracker”, call the studio at 672-9462 or go to www.danceartslosalamos.org.