Strengthening community ties

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By Special to the Monitor

“Will you be our Mother Ginger?” Who could possibly refuse such a request? Certainly not Will Rees, Kevin Holsapple or Charlie McMillan, who will each take a turn portraying the colorful, larger-than-life character of Mother Ginger this week in “The Nutcracker.” Dance Arts Los Alamos (DALA) is once again welcoming local community members into the cast of its 14th production of the traditional holiday ballet.


When senior Los Alamos National Laboratory Manager William Rees Jr. received an invitation from the 10 young dancers who will perform as clowns in the Mother Ginger dance, he could not say no.  

“I am very much looking forward to working with the cast and crew of ‘The Nutcracker,’” Rees commented. Rees has held the post of Principal Associate Director for Global Security since June 2009, when he moved to Los Alamos. Rees will be Mother Ginger Friday night.

A second senior manager at LANL, Charles McMillan, will also be among those taking to the stage this weekend. McMillan and Rees were nominated by laboratory employees to take on the role of Mother Ginger, as part of a United Way fundraiser.  

McMillan has lived in Los Alamos for almost four years and is principal associate director of Weapons Programs at LANL. No stranger to the stage, he is a former singer with Coro de Cámara and has played recorder, sung and danced for the past 24 years with California Revels – a traditional music and theater performance group based in the Bay Area. McMillan will appear as Mother Ginger in Sunday’s matinee performance.

Holsapple is a familiar figure to many in Los Alamos.  He is Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and has lived in Los Alamos for more than 20 years.  He will take on an entirely different role on Saturday when he steps into the Mother Ginger costume for the first time. “I received a request that I never even considered refusing,” Holsapple said, referring to the invitation from DALA dancers. Although, initially unaware that he would be dressing in drag, complete with wig, flamboyant makeup and an enormous scarlet “dress,” Holsapple said, “DALA is a valued member of the Chamber of Commerce and the community,” Holsapple said. “Organizations that contribute to educating and helping positive youth development are really important to our community.” Catch him in action during Saturday’s matinee.

 The role of Clara will be danced this year by Shayna Mallett, a fourth-grader at Canyoncito Montessori School. She has taken tap and ballet classes for four years and looks forward to many more. Lucario Chavez plays Clara’s brother, Fritz.  Jeff Favorite will perform in the role of Clara’s mysterious Godfather, Drosselmeyer.

This year, “The Nutcracker” cast includes 93 children, 20 adult performers and three principal guest artists.

While this year’s show will be a first for many, for Bethany Letellier, a senior at Los Alamos High School, it will be a farewell performance and the culmination of her dancing career in Los Alamos.

Since first appearing in the ballet as a Bon Bon in 1996, Letellier has danced in many different roles, including Party Girl, Ballerina Doll, Snowflake, Mirliton, Chinese, Rose Queen and Arabian. She will dance in the role of the Rose Queen this year. Choreographer and faculty member Lisa Jaegers has created an entirely new Waltz of the Flowers for the 2009 show, featuring Letellier as principal dancer.  

“Although the music is the same each year, it’s actually very exciting to dance in ‘The Nutcracker’ because the choreography changes and the dancers themselves move into different roles. As a dancer, you develop and this is reflected in the roles you are selected for each year,” Letellier said. “DALA has given me a great dance education and I’m really going to miss the dancing experience I’ve had here.”

DALA will again feature the choreography of DALA Ballet Curriculum Director Christin Severini, a former dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York City. Now continuing her professional dancing career in New Mexico, Severini has choreographed several dances in “The Nutcracker,” including the Snow scene. Nicole Silks will take the principal role of the Snow Queen, supported by a corps de ballet of 28 dancers. Principal artists Erin Burr (Arabian), Lauren Burr (Spanish), Holly Erickson and Megan Kelley (Mirliton) and Jenna Erickson (Peppermint) will interpret Severini’s choreography.

In addition to the Waltz of the Flowers, faculty member Jaegers choreographed the Chinese dance (Tia Kauppila and Louisa Singleton) and angels (Haley Bridgewater).  Bob and Sally Nolen, award-winning ballroom dance instructors for more than 30 years, choreographed the Party Parents’ waltz for the third year running. Overall Party Scene, Battle Scene and Mother Ginger choreography has been contributed by DALA Executive Director Valerie Silks, who is also costume mistress and director of the show. Michele DeCroix produced the “The Nutcracker.”

“The Nutcracker” will be part of the Winterfest weekend festivities in Los Alamos and will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Duane W. Smith Auditorium. Tickets are on sale from CB Fox and White Smiths Food and Drug in White Rock and cost at $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and $8 for children 12 and younger. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Now in its 18th year, Dance Arts Los Alamos is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes dance in northern New Mexico. Registration for DALA’s spring semester will begin soon.

For more information about DALA or “The Nutcracker,” call the studio at 672-9462 or go to www.danceartslosalamos.org.