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A Holiday Classic

Ballet Pensacola Presents “The Nutcracker”
by Jennie McKeon

It’s a Christmas tradition that will never get old. Whether you’re going to see the Sugar Plum Fairy or Clara and the Nutcracker Prince share their first dance, you must take time to enjoy “The Nutcracker.”

Ballet Pensacola will perform “The Nutcracker” at the Saenger Theatre Friday, Dec. 17 and Saturday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 1:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary from $17 to $30.

For the past several weeks, the company dancers have been rehearsing 40 hours a week. Even Ballet Pensacola students have put in about 20 hours a week of practice.

“It’s a labor-intensive production,” said artistic director and choreographer Robert Steinert.

Steinert, along with over 100 performers and ballet mistress and choreographer Christine Duhon have all been working hard to produce a ballet that is timeless and yet surprising.

“It’s not just a ballet,” Steinert said. “We pull out all the stops. There’s a good bit of slapstick comedy. It’s not just great dancing, but great theatre.”

For those of you who attend “The Nutcracker” every year, you will notice a few changes to the ballet. As part of a five-year plan to update sets, each year a different set will get a make-over. Last year it was Act One, and this year, Act Two will make its debut. New costumes, new choreography and new faces will surprise even the most die-hard “Nutcracker” fans.

Dylan Duke, who will play the Nutcracker Prince, is one of the new faces. The 19-year-old just moved to Pensacola from Baltimore to join Ballet Pensacola. Although this is only his second ballet since moving to the area four months ago, Duke says he already feels at home.

“Everyone has been very welcoming,” Duke said. “It’s very easy to like everyone. I enjoy their company.”

Duke, who has been dancing for eight years, has had his fair share of “Nutcracker” performances, but says each play is different from the other.

“Generally, every ballet company does ‘The Nutcracker,’” Duke said. “I’ve played the Nutcracker Prince a number of times and each time the choreography is totally different.”

Even as “The Nutcracker” evolves, there are still some things better left alone. For example: the coveted role of Clara performed by 21-year-old Kristen Springer. This is Springer’s third season as Clara. You would think she could perform the ballet in her sleep, but Springer says the part is different each year.

“It’s never really the same because I’ve always had a different partner,” Springer said. “Every time you get one stage it’s different. That’s what we try to do—make sure that every show isn’t the exact same show.”

So even if you’ve seen “The Nutcracker” before, you’ll be missing out if you don’t make it to one or all three performances. It’s not just a beautiful ballet, but a theatrical production the whole family can enjoy.

“What I love about ‘The Nutcracker’ is that this is one ballet that brings families together,” Steinert said.

“I want people to walk away with a better understanding of the story and feel like they saw real characters and not just actors,” Springer said. “Hopefully, families come to the show and start a holiday tradition and see how it changes each year.”

info@inweekly.net

BALLET PENSACOLA PRESENTS “THE NUTCRACKER”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17 and Saturday, Dec. 18, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox Place
COST: $17, $23 and $30
DETAILS: balletpensacola.com, or 432-9546