FARMINGTON — The classic Nutcracker ballet will once again make its appearance this holiday season with some new special effects and some differences in choreography that will make this year’s ballet exciting to see.
More than 100 local dancers will grace the stage for this year's performance. "The Nutcracker" will be held at the Centene Center in Farmington at 7 p.m. Dec. 6th, 7 p.m. Dec. 7th, 1 p.m. Dec. 8th (matinee) or 7 p.m. Dec. 8th.
Artistic Director Kimberly Gavin Anderson said the Nutcracker is in its 19th season.
“It’s a classic. I love a classic. It’s important to have a golden thread to connect one generation to another,” said Anderson.
Anderson and her daughter Maggie Haupt, assistant director work together to tweak the choreography from year to year depending on the dancers to keep the Nutcracker a classic. Anderson said things usually don’t change that much from year to year with choreography.
This year is the first year there have ever been three guest dancers in the Nutcracker. Two are returning from previous performances and one is new to the performance.
Anderson said Gerald Haynes is returning as the Cavalier and Christopher Fishburn is returning at the Soldier Doll and Spanish Dancer, while the newest member, Prentice Witlow is playing Snow King and an Arabian Prince. Witlow is from New York City but studied at Lindenwood University in St. Louis.
“We had to get a third dancer this year because the caliber of dancing from the high school students has increased so much,” said Anderson.
Caroline Boyer is a freshman and in her fourth Nutcracker. She is portraying a Rose, dancing in the Waltz of Flowers and the Chorus of Snowflakes during this year’s Nutcracker performance.
“I have been dancing since I was 3 years old. I saw all the older girls in the Nutcracker for the first time when I was in the first grade and knew I wanted to be in the Nutcracker,” said Boyer.
Chloe Robinson is also a freshman this year and in her fifth Nutcracker. She was a little girl in the party scene and a mouse in her first Nutcracker.
She began dancing when she was 3 years old and saw her first Nutcracker when she was in first grade.
“I was in preschool and I told my mom I wanted to be in the Nutcracker when I got older. I was inspired by the costumes and the atmosphere of the Nutcracker,” said Robinson.
Boyer said she has one more year for the Nutcracker since it’s every other year. In her last Nutcracker she hopes to dance as either the Sugar Plum Fairy or Snow Queen. Both parts go to either junior or senior girls.
Robinson is a Snowflake in all four performances this year.
“I have been a Junior Snowflake before but this year they didn’t have that role anymore,” said Robinson.
“I tried on one of the new snowflake costumes last week and loved it. It’s so sparkly and pretty,” said Boyer.
Chris Rottler, director of costumes said this year’s production of the Nutcracker has 24 new snowflake costumes.
“The snowflake costumes are special this year because they are hand sewn. The high school dancers will be wearing them right before intermission,” said Rottler.
The costumes are purchased for the productions through costume fundraising. They do fundraising and ticket sales to raise money.
There are 400 costumes for the Nutcracker this year. Rottler said everything will be labeled, packaged, sized, fitted and goes to the Centene Center for the production.
There are two women who work in the costume department including Rottler plus many moms who volunteer to make outfits, alter, fit shoes and anything else that needs to be done. She said once things are altered and ready to go they are set aside for the Centene Center for the production.
They costume department begins their fittings in August and tries to have them done by Thanksgiving. Rottler said this gives her an extra week to play with in case she has to make some extra adjustments with the costumes.
Depending on the performance the costume department may need to purchase different costumes. Rottler said it also depends on the size of the groups dancing and how many dancers have to have the same costume.
This year the costume department purchased Snowflake and Doll costumes for the Nutcracker.
“The opportunity for this to happen is unbelievable. It is magnificent to see,” said Rottler.
Anderson said one thing about the Nutcracker is depending on the dancers people will remember the Nutcracker from 20 years ago. It doesn’t change much. For example girls who were mice years ago are now in the ballet as adults.
Jaime Cheaney was in the Nutcracker from 1985 to 1991 and now is doing the Nutcracker with part of her family. Jaime, her husband Mike, sons Drake and Blaise are in their second year of Nutcracker as a family.
Jaime said their daughter Kelsey is playing Clara in this year’s Nutcracker. This is her third year of the Nutcracker.
Jaime said they wanted something fun to do as a family.
“It’s neat to see Kelsey in the different dresses she has worn and the different parts and memories she has made. I can remember the parts and choreography when I was in the Nutcracker,” said Jaime.
Mike said he knew about the Nutcracker before his daughter was in dance. When he and Jaime dated she was in the Nutcracker along with his sister while they were all in high school.
“I never thought I would be in the Nutcracker,” said Mike.
Jaime said the Nutcracker production is so much larger now than it was when she was it. Anderson does such a good job at dividing up the parts.
Both Mike and Jaime will be on stage the same time as Kelsey and their sons.
Mike said he was more nervous the first time because he wasn’t sure if he would remember the steps or how it would go together. He is less nervous this time because he knows it does come together.
Another one of the members of the Nutcracker this year is a familiar face to many. Doug McDermott, president of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, is taking part in the production for the first time as an adult performer.
He said he finds it very different from the last time he was in the show.
“I was 10 last time I was in the show and played the Nutcracker Prince,” McDermott said. “The whole process was larger than life.”
He added, “As an adult, what you see is how exciting it is for the children to work together and appreciate how much they’re learning about performing and working as a team to put on the show.”
In his 17th Nutcracker, Jorgen Wibskov was first involved in the Nutcracker in 1983. He portrays the eccentric Uncle Drosselmeier, who makes mechanical dolls.
Wibskov said his character appears scary but is actually loving and gentle.
“After having three children who have been in the performance it adds to the season,” said Wibskov.
When he started in his first two Nutcracker performances he was another character. The last 15 performances he has been Drosselmeier.
President of the Young People’s Performing Arts Theatre, Inc. this year is Pam McLaurin. Her daughter Callie has been performing in the Nutcracker since she was 6.
She said the production is very impressive especially being in a rural area.
The Nutcracker is presented by the Young People's Performing Arts Theatre, Inc., formed in 1981 by Kimberly Gavin-Anderson. It was formed to give young people in the area performance opportunities.
“Some of the young people in the performance are children of my former cast mates, and this just goes to show how much of a legacy The Nutcracker is leaving on our community,” said McDermott.
McLaurin said she had a good friend who referred her to the Ballet Arts Center, which is owned by Kimberly Gavin-Anderson. McLaurin’s daughter began taking dance lessons there and they went to see the Nutcracker the next time it was performed.
“It’s amazing what the production becomes,” said McLaurin.
Because they were so impressed with the production the next time they held auditions Callie went and tried out. She has been in the Nutcracker every since.
McLaurin said this is Callie’s last year in the Nutcracker. She will be a Sugar Plum Fairy in the Friday evening performance and have roles in the other performances.
“The year’s we don’t do Nutcracker it doesn’t feel like the holidays,” said Anderson.
They hold their startup meetings in March and casting is held over the summer. Anderson said rehearsals start shortly after but they seem like it just started.
The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same: The story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
Tickets are on sale now at the Farmington Civic Center. Ticket prices are $10.50, and group tickets sales are available for the Thursday night performance.
Organizers for the Nutcracker have set up a website yppat.org for people who are interested in more information about the Nutcracker or call (573) 546-6208 for information on group tickets sales.
Maridee Lawson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 756-8927 or firstname.lastname@example.org .