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‘Nutcracker’ dances into holidays

Gainesville Ballet to perform classic rendition with a twist in Act I

POSTED: December 5, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Whether it is spent sitting around a Christmas tree sipping hot cocoa or outside pelting each other with snowballs, the holidays are a time to celebrate with loved ones and reminisce about past festivities. This year, Gainesville Ballet is celebrating its past with its 40th anniversary season and a rendition of “The Nutcracker.”

The famous ballet has become a yearly staple of the local dance company and has ushered in the holidays in Gainesville for more than 25 years.

“It’s the magic of Christmas, and ‘The Nutcracker’ is probably the most known classical ballet around,” Gainesville Ballet artistic director Diane Callahan said.

Nearly 95 dancers have spent the past five months practicing and rehearsing the performance, which is expected to draw an audience of 500 people to each show. Callahan said the production is so attractive because the story is joyful and iconic.

“It’s a story of one person’s magic Christmas,” she said. “People recognize that and connect to it.”

“The Nutcracker” is a popular Christmas-themed ballet originally adapted from the story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” written by German author E.T.A. Hoffman. In the story, a young girl’s favorite toy comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom full of dolls.

Most ballet performances adapt the story for a stage performance to better connect with the audience, and Gainesville Ballet’s rendition is no exception.

This first act of the play is almost entirely original. It features Clara, the lead child, who ventures into an enchanted forest where she meets various characters from different parts of the world.

“The original first act is not very exciting,” Callahan said. “I wanted my dancers to be able dance more, so I changed a lot of it.

“Instead of having it in Clara’s home, I took her into this enchanted forest and had her meet different types of people and things. There is a lot more dancing.”

The second act has also been given the “Callahan treatment” and features two groups of younger dancers. There are 19 “little angels” and 21 “China dolls,” who represent children from 6 to 12 years old, most of whom have already had two-to-three years of dance lessons.

Ensuring no one performance is the same and each child gets to experience an important role, most of the angels and dolls are double cast, meaning their roles change with each show.

The role of Clara is also double cast, with company members Mary Peterson and Louisa Leimbach playing the part.

To celebrate the anniversary season, the company is planning a rendition of “Mary Poppins,” titled “Mary,” along with a variety of repertory works, which consist of short dances lasting between four and seven minutes, on March 14-16.

“The Nutcracker” will consist of four public performances Dec. 6-8 at the Pearce Auditorium on the Brenau University campus. Tickets can be purchased at the Pearce Auditorium box office or by calling 770-532-4241.


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