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Arts and Entertainment

‘Nutcracker’ tradition
N.C. Dance Theater production is Dec. 13-22
 
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 7:19 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

The “Nutcracker” is perhaps the most popular ballet in America. Based on the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” a dark story by E.T.A. Hoffman, the ballet has been adapted by hundreds of communities and production companies across the United States and Canada.

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PHOTO/JEFF CRAVOTTA
Amanda Smith performs in the North Carolina Dance Theater productio of "Nutcracker" Dec. 13-22.

North Carolina Dance Theatre will present Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s “Nutcracker” live with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Dec. 13-22. It’s one of the ballet’s most popular productions, drawing thousands of fans annually.

“We’re pleased to bring the time-honored holiday tradition of the “Nutcracker” to the Charlotte area year after year,” Bonnefoux said. “It’s the type of ballet that has something for everyone, and we invite families to celebrate the magic of the holidays with us this December.”

Amanda Smith, a California girl who calls Charlotte home, trains with NCDT and is taking part in this year’s performance. The 23-year-old recalls the first time she saw a “Nutcracker” production. It was performed by Debbie Allen’s dance studio in Los Angeles.

“It was called ‘The Chocolate Nutcracker,’” Smith said. “It was all African Americans. It was quite amazing to see African Americans dancing as ballet dancers. Seeing them on point made me feel like, ‘oh my gosh, I can do that too.’”

The “Nutcracker” story begins on a crisp winter’s evening at a cheerful holiday party in the home of a little girl named Clara and her parents. At the height of the evening, Clara’s favorite uncle, the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer, arrives. He presents young Clara with an extraordinary Nutcracker doll, which her mischievous brother Fritz breaks. Drosselmeyer mends the doll and later brings it to life to save Clara in a battle with the Mouse King. 

Through Drosselmeyer’s magic, the Nutcracker takes Clara on a journey to the glittering Land of Snow and the majestic Land of Sweets, where they meet the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Smith dances in several scenes throughout the ballet, including the initial party scene and returns later to gift Clara and the Nutcracker with chocolates from Spain, bubbling tea from China and coffee from Arabia, among other items.

“Each one is something different,” she said of each scene. “As the Spanish couple, we’re a very fiery couple that comes in. We are the first to come out to dance… It’s really quick, short and fast. It’s spicy I’m wearing a very long skirt and I whip it around. It’s very fun.”

In contrast, she describes the Arabian dance as regal, slow and sensual and uses words like cute, fun and little to describe the Chinese dance. 

“I love them all,” said Smith, who has been dancing since age 3. “The Chinese is definitely harder dance-wise. It’s a little bit of a challenge, but that’s how you improve.”

Like many “Nutcracker” fans, Smith’s favorite scene of the ballet is the famous Sparkling Snow Scene, which features 10 ballerinas as the dancing snowflakes led by a Snow Queen and King.

 “The scene is so beautiful,” she said. “The music is beautiful. It’s something about it, like the snowstorm is coming but it’s the calm before the storm. With the snow falling on the ballerinas and the white tutus it’s amazing.”

Smith, who has performed multiple roles in over a dozen productions of the Nutcracker said playing the Snow Queen in a Christian production of the ballet was by far her favorite role. 

“The Snow Queen and white represented innocence and purity,” she said. “So from then on, even though I wasn’t doing all Christian Nutcrackers, I still thought about that one when I see the snow… It’s beautiful and definitely one of my favorite scenes.”

Tickets to NCDT’s “Nutcracker” range from $25-$90 and can be purchased by phone at (704) 372-1000, in person at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center box office or online at NCDance.org.

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