OGDEN -- Children, parents, and grandparents lined up outside a meeting room in the Ogden Eccles Conference Center on Saturday afternoon to trade tickets for candy canes after a showing of The Nutcracker by students from the Julie Moffitt Ballet School.
Attendees rubbed elbows with the likes of the Nutcracker Prince, the Mouse King, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, while enjoying punch and cookies at the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea immediately following the matinee.
Julie Moffitt, owner and artistic director of the school bearing her name, said she and her students have been staging performances of the Nutcracker for the past nine years and have held annual Sugar Plum Fairy Teas for the past six years. Moffitt said she had a pretty good guess as to why The Nutcracker is such a popular ballet.
"Honestly, I just think it's because it's fun. The story is fun, everybody can relate to it. There's a little romance, there's a hero, there's a bad guy; it just has a good story," Moffitt said. "There's a Cinderella kind of a feel and every girl loves Cinderella. Children are in it and all ages love it. Not everybody is exposed to ballet, and this, it's just easy. It's the one ballet that everybody will go to."
Moffitt said everyone does The Nutcracker differently and she tries to keep each year's performance fresh by adding new surprises every year. Whether it's adding penguin characters for her 4-year-old and 5-year-old performers to show off their own happy feet, or incorporating the infamous Macarena into the Mouse King's dance routine, Moffitt said finding new ways of adding humor and surprises to an already humorous ballet keeps her busy.
"Dance is part of who we are and it's part of our culture and I think it brings people together," Moffitt said. "Dance is moving art."
One little girl at the tea was definitely moved by the performance she'd witnessed earlier, as evidenced by the way she danced like a pro while waiting in line for cookies.
Jared Steadman, a.k.a The Nutcracker Prince, said his favorite part of the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea is seeing the reactions of the children who attend.
"I think it's a lot of fun to see the little girls. They're kind of shy to see the big tall prince but I think it's really fun to see their expressions," Steadman said.
Sue Kidman, of Riverdale, said attending the Julie Moffitt Ballet School's rendition of The Nutcracker is a family tradition and she brings her granddaughters every year.
"It's awesome," Kidman said. "I've got my two granddaughters here, and we had pictures taken. So I've got pictures of them standing with the characters; and they're really enjoying the cookies and punch."
Kidman's granddaughter, Gracie, 7, is a ballerina in her own right and approved of the day's performance, noting that the dancer playing Clara was "very pretty."
Gracie's younger sister, Austyn, 5, was a fan of "the gingerbread lady" for reasons she couldn't put her finger on; a certain something that may or may not have stemmed from the gingerbread lady's colorful costume.
The final performance of this season's The Nutcracker by the Julie Moffitt Ballet School is on Monday at 7 p.m. at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden. However, Imagine Ballet Theater will be performing The Nutcracker at Peery's Egyptian Theater on the weekends of the 13th and 20th. Ticketing information can be found at egyptiantheaterogden.com.