Famous for its whimsical take on one girl’s dream, “The Nutcracker” ballet, in all its glitter snow and sugar plum glory, was first performed in December of 1892 in Russia. At the heart of the narrative, it is simply a fairy tale love story told through dance. When Clara, following her family’s boisterous Christmas Eve party, falls asleep with her favorite toy, a nutcracker, snuggled in her arms, she enters a fantasyland where he comes to life. Replete with fierce battles, larger-than-life decorations, enchanting wonderlands and an array of multicultural movement, “The Nutcracker” is seasonal pageantry worth experiencing.
Through the relationship between one girl and one quirky keepsake, “The Nutcracker” is a spellbinding journey across the stage, delighting children and adults alike. If it has not yet become a celebrated tradition in your family, now is a good time. If you have trouble choosing which performance to see, perhaps just close your eyes, fall blissfully asleep and let the sugar plum fairies lead the way.
Nancy S. Moseley is a freelance writer from Blacksburg who once danced the “March” in high school and was fortunate enough to see two performances of “The Nutcracker” by the NYC Ballet at Lincoln Center. Her favorite part is – spoiler alert – when the Christmas tree grows and grows and grows!
Little Leapers and LEAP Performing Arts Academy
December 17-18, 2022, Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech
Now in its 11th year, director Heather Leeper has grown her academy’s holiday tradition from a cast of 30 dancers wearing handmade or thrift store finds to a production boasting nearly 250 roles (dancers and community members) donned in professional costumes and dancing to a live orchestra through an animated set with pyrotechnics, short film and a flying(!) mouse queen.
This year the academy has added a junior production of the holiday favorite – an abbreviated version of the full-length ballet – showcasing dancers 12 years of age and under.
“Our production will mesmerize you with the holiday spirit through the gift of dance and will ‘keep you on your toes’ with all the special surprises and twists Little Leapers has to offer to this traditional classic. My favorite part is growing and evolving our show each year, no two years have been the same,” Leeper offers. “Our production is one of inclusivity, celebrating all abilities of dance and honoring cultural diversity.”
Eight-year-old Fiona Jackson has been taking dance classes at Little Leapers for two-and-a-half years. This year she auditioned for the role of Clara and found out she was selected when an actual nutcracker figurine surreptitiously appeared at her front door. Since there are multiple performances over two days, she is one of three Claras.
Jackson exclaims: “I feel grateful to have been chosen to play Clara. My favorite thing is telling the story through dance and acting … and dancing with my friends!”
December 16-17, 2022
Tickets: Pulaski Theatre box office
Westover Ballet’s holiday production entitled “Nutcracker 1918” immediately foretells a twist to the traditional ballet. Founder and director Katherine Oakie has written a story wrought with historical significance, hyper-focusing the plot to star real people who lived in the New River Valley in 1918.
In fact, the rendition is inspired by the journal of Oakie’s great-grandfather Robert Perry Millirons and is set in his hometown of Pulaski at the end of World War I. The journey opens with Clara and her family anxiously awaiting the train that will bring her brother (Millirons) home from the war. The dancer who plays him wears his actual uniform that graced the battlefields of France. Westover Ballet’s interpretation is one-of-a-kind, a uniquely heartwarming tale of one soldier’s homecoming and the obstacles (a rat king!) he overcame to get there. Also, audience members should be prepared to sing carols.
“I love watching the dancers take ownership of this story. By the time the show arrives, they are completely immersed in the time and place. They become these characters, and they tell the story with such authenticity. I love history, I love Tchaikovsky’s music, and I love storytelling through dance; the chance to combine all three within a piece of our community’s heritage is very special,” Oakie concludes.
December 9-10, 2022, Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech
Director and producer Paige Godwin doesn’t hesitate to share her feelings when asked about her favorite part producing “The Nutcracker” each year: “It is the perfect balance between professional production and community performance. There’s a little something extra in every scene that highlights our love for all things local.”
Blacksburg Ballet’s 2022 production showcases multiple styles of dance including ballet, tap, jazz and even acrobatics. It’s not unlikely to spy your college professor, a server at Wine Lab, a Virginia Techniques gymnast or even the HokieBird sashay across the stage, Godwin teases. This year there will be belly dancers from Virginia Tech’s Hill and Veil club and traditional Chinese dance and Kung Fu demonstrations from the Blacksburg Chinese School.
Godwin declares: “It is, without a doubt, showing off that the New River Valley is an artistic force to be reckoned with.”
December 1-3, 2022
Information not available at press time.
Text by Nancy S. Moseley