by Susie Potter
When the lights dim and the curtains open on Carolina Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker on Friday, December 18, one can expect many gasps and excited exclamations from all the children (and adults) in the audience. Now in its ninth season, this year’s performance of the Nutcracker promises to be even more elaborate and enchanting than those of years past.
Though what will happen on stage may seem like pure magic to the audience members, it is actually the culmination of months and months of hard work and planning that began in early September when over 200 children auditioned for a part in the production. Out of those 200, a lucky and dedicated 128 were chosen, and they have been rehearsing earnestly every weekend since September 26. Two casts, with 64 children in each, will take turns performing in the 14 productions of the Nutcracker that will take place over the holiday season. “In some cases, children even double up for two roles. The children are in the Party Scene of Act I; they are soldiers and mice in the battle scene; and truffles, Arabian attendants, and gingerbread cookies in Act II,” Elizabeth Parker, Assistant to the Artistic Director, of Carolina Ballet, said.
Though the majority of the dancing is done by professional dancers from Carolina Ballet, it is truly these hard working little ones that deserve the most applause. “The children all come from local ballet schools and in most cases have taken at least two or three years of dance. We spent a great deal of time picking out the best dancers for each role,” Parker said. The youngest child in the performance is only 6 years old, and Parker notes that there is a very little Party Boy who is “so smart that it’s hard to tell how old he is.” For the majority of the Party Boys, in fact, this is a first role in a professional production. The same is true for the 12 truffles and the three baby mice.
Aside from the impressiveness of these diligent young performers, elaborate costumes and the attention to detail that have gone into this performance are also to be admired. The press release that Carolina Ballet sent out this year boasts some astonishing figures: Over 150 costumes, made up of over 2500 yards of fabric, were designed for the production; The famous Waltz of the Flowers consists of over 190 hand-painted petals on 12 costumes, 51 buttons were hand-sewn onto 20 solider costumes; and the skirts of the snow dresses have been air-bushed layer by layer, to create the color seen on stage. When asked how such an elaborate production was made possible, Parker said, “When Robert Weiss, the show’s artistic director, first choreographed the show in 2001, we were starting from scratch, and he knew it would cost a great deal of money to make a world class production. He went to Progress Energy and asked if they would suport this effort, which they very generously did. In return, we have given two free performances for the school children of Wake County each year.
It isn’t, however, the gorgeous costumes that Parker and the people of Carolina Ballet are most proud of. Though the choreography remains fresh and daunting, Parker states that she is most proud of the dancers who perform in the show. “Even though they have danced in Nutcracker for many years since they were children, the dancers treat it with a respect and a professionalism that really shows through show after show. The children have worked hard and add a great deal to the overall effect as well,” Parker said. And, what, for Parker, is the most memorable about this year’s show? “I am going to do a few shows aa the grandmother in the party scene. I have wanted to do this for several years and finally have the chance to be on the stage with the dancers with whom I have worked for many years,” Parker answered
The Nutcracker opens at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium of the Progress Energy Center on Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. Other performances are Saturday, December 19 at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 20 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Tuesday, December 22 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, December 23 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, December 26 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m; and Sunday, December 27 at 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Tickets may be obtained by calling(919) 719-0900 or ticketmaster at 800 982 2787, and patrons are urged to order tickets in advance as they are going quickly.