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Visions of dainty dancers
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The cast of "The Nutcracker" includes, standing from left, Hannah Patten as the Snow Queen, Peter Swan as the Sugarplum Cavalier, Rommie Stalnaker as the Sugarplum Fairy, Jessica Shilling as the Spanish female dancer and Derrick Smith as the Spanish male dancer. Seated from left are Sally Justus as an angel soloist, Michelle Santana as the Dewdrop Fairy, Ada Spahija as Clara, James Pendelton as Fritz and Olivia Jones, also as Clara. - photo by Tom Reed

‘The Nutcracker'

Presented by Gainesville Ballet Company

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Pearce Auditorium, Brenau University, 500 Washington St. SE, Gainesville

How much: $16-$24 adults, $12-$20 seniors, $10-$16 students and children and $5 Brenau faculty, staff and students with ID

More info: 770-532-4241

Some children have visions of Santa Claus and sugarplums dancing in their heads this time of year.

But Jill Peterson and Dori Brumbelow, costumers for Gainesville Ballet, have visions of pink crinoline and satin in their heads lately.

That's because the two are surrounded by mounds of fabric for ballet dancers ranging from tiny winged angels to colorful Chinese dancers to a glamorous sugarplum fairy.

Along with fitting puffy skirts from the costume closet of the Gainesville Ballet Company, the two have also created new costumes for this year's performance, which runs this weekend at Brenau University's Pearce Auditorium.

"It's a lot of fluff," Peterson said. "But, it's really fun. It's like playing dress-up every day."

And their work is not lost on the performers, who, even among the smallest of the cast, recognize the importance of rich fabric and dreamy colors, which come to the character, Clara, while she's asleep.

"I like the wings," said 7-year-old Ansley Tyree, who plays one of the Littlest Angels in the production of the classic Christmas tale.

Her friend Louisa Leimbach, 6, agreed. "I like the costumes," she said.

The little girls have a lot to look up to, as many angels' big sisters are in "the Nutcracker," too. And all the girls see stars in their eyes when they watch professional dancer Rommie Stalnaker take to the stage.

Stalnaker is returning to her role as the Sugarplum Fairy this year, after making plans to leave Gainesville Ballet last year and move to New York City. Unfortunately, an injury has changed her plans, and she is instead planning on entering graduate school next year.

So, she's back and grinning through the pain in her foot, for which she's having surgery next week.

Another returning performer is Derrick Smith, a student who will be graduating from Brenau University this spring. He is playing multiple roles this year, including the Spanish prince.

"It's pretty scary, not knowing what the next thing for you is," he said of graduation. "Here I've been so secure knowing what I'm going to do each semester. But once you graduate you're out there on your own."

But being a man in the dancing world puts his mind at ease a bit, he said, along with knowing the training he's received with Gainesville Ballet has made him a better dancer.

"It has prepared me tremendously, a lot," he said. "I didn't have a lot of ballet training growing up - I was born in Alabama but I was raised pretty much here - especially my ballet technique. Technicality-wise, vocabulary-wise, I feel so much better as a ballet dancer now.

"It's making me feel that I can really dance."

And admittedly, there aren't a lot of male dancers in the production. Diane Callahan, artistic director for Gainesville Ballet, said they are always looking for more young men to join the overwhelmingly female ranks.

Dancers James Davis, 11, and Aaron Chastain, 12, said it's perfectly cool to be part of the ballet if you're a guy.

"It's really, really cool," Davis said. "It's one of those things where we're almost the only boys, but the only boys our age in the production, so it's really cool."

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