Christmas isn't Christmas in the ballet world without a production of the holiday classic "The Nutcracker."
Two major productions will be presented this year in Stanislaus County. Central West Ballet will stage the show at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, Dec. 14-23, while Backstage Academy of Dance Company will present a production at the Turlock Community Theatre, Dec. 21-22.
In an effort to bring something new to each year's production, Central West has recruited Modesto's mayor and a retired judge to play a fun part.
First performed in 1892 in
St. Petersburg, Russia, "The Nutcracker" tells the story of a young girl who receives a magical doll that transforms into a handsome prince and carries her off to the Land of Sweets. There's a Christmas tree that grows to a huge size, a battle between mice and toy soldiers, and performances from dancers from around the world. The familiar music was written by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.
CENTRAL WEST BALLET: A cast of 100 will perform the ballet this year with two 11-year-old sixth-graders alternating in the role of Clara: Izabella Duran-Soriano, a student at Connecting Waters Charter, and Morgan Turner, who attends Ustach Middle School.
The two girls, who both performed as girls at a party last year, were thrilled to be chosen for the plum role. Morgan said she learned she got the part right before going to school.
"I was really excited and told all my friends," she said.
Izabella said her favorite part is dancing in the party scene with all her friends. Her mother, Julie, who attends most rehearsals, said she is grateful that her daughter has a chance to be part of such a professional show in Modesto. "We have a wonderful company here in the valley."
The show draws students from dance schools from throughout the region, including Juline School of Dance, Valley Oak School of Dance, Steps Dance Arts Center, The Dance Factory, PJ's School of Dance, 5,6,7,8 Dance Studio and Deborah Morgan Dance Studio.
"There is good training everywhere," said Central West artistic director Rene Daveluy.
He has re-choreographed many of the dances to make them more difficult and designed a new blue, celestial-looking backdrop for the second act. The backdrop is being made in an NBC lot in Los Angeles.
He also has recruited some special guest performers. Mayor Garrad Marsh will play the part of Mother Ginger on opening night, Dec. 14 only. Retired Superior Court Judge Hugh Rose will play the role on Dec. 21. The character walks on stilts in a big hoop skirt which opens to reveal several small children, who come out and dance on the stage.
This year, Central West is offering a $15 student discount to the show called "Ballet in the Balcony." As usual, there will be Sugar Plum Fairy parties after the matinees. For an additional cost of $6, those who attend can meet the cast, get photos and autographs and enjoy refreshments.
Daveluy said the company is working hard to make sure audience members get a great show. "It's always new, always magical," he said. "We don't just sit on our laurels. We always strive to best ourselves against ourselves."
BACKSTAGE ACADEMY OF DANCE COMPANY: The Turlock group has assembled a cast of 70, ranging in age from 5 to 40-plus. "We've got a lot of local talent that's amazing," said director Kristi Garcia. "This year, our dance company is a really strong group of dancers."
Megan Wade, who is in her late teens, returns in the starring role of Clara. Garcia said she is even better this year because of her additional year of dance training.
Garcia has added Clara to the snow scene and Russian scene to make better use of her talents. Gregory Perez will play the prince, while Garcia's son Keaton Garcia will play the Snow Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy Cavalier.
As usual, Garcia has a lot of families in the show. She has at least three pairs of sisters, plus her three children. She's excited that three sisters ages 13 to 17 will play dolls.
Audience members won't be disappointed with the dancers, Garcia said. "I'm really excited to see all of them shine on stage."
Central West Ballet's 'The Nutcracker'
WHEN: 7 p.m. Dec. 14; 2 p.m. Dec. 15-16; 7 p.m. Dec. 21; 2 p.m. Dec. 22-23.
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
TICKETS: $15-$54; Sugar Plum Fairy parties following matinees for $6 (includes photos, autographs with cast, children's goody bags)
CALL: (209) 338-2100
Backstage Academy of Dance Company's 'The Nutcracker'
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22
WHERE: Turlock Community Theatre, 1574 E. Canal Drive
TICKETS: $20 adults, $15 children age 4-12 and students with ID, free for children age 3 and under
CALL: (209) 595-6952