The twinkly lights, vision of sugar plums dancing and snowflakes falling describe the epitome of Christmas that is “The Nutcracker,” a beloved story that has become a holiday tradition for people around the world.
Salt Lake City-based Ballet West is the only company still performing the original full-length American version, which is also considered the world’s longest running production of “The Nutcracker.” It was choreographed by William Christensen, founder of Ballet West, in 1944.
Ballet West is returning to Ogden this holiday season and bringing “The Nutcracker,” with performances on Nov. 28 and 29 at Weber State University’s Val A. Browning Center. The performances are sponsored by the Ogden Symphony Ballet Association.
“It is a marvelous family tradition,” said Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute. “It is magical, it’s a wonderful way to kick off the holidays … and I can’t think of a better way to introduce your children to art, to music and also to have a good time as a family together. And that’s why I think this ballet has been so successful for so many years and why I think the people in Ogden should come and see it.”
Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” tells the tale of Clara Stahlbaum, a little girl who is the recipient of a magical Christmas gift that takes her on a dream journey. Her gift — a nutcracker — given to her by her uncle, Herr Drosselmeyer, turns into a human prince after Clara falls asleep under the magnificent family Christmas tree, upset with the boys of the house who break the toy soldier.
The nutcracker prince transforms after an intense battle with a mice army, lead by the Mouse King. What soon unfolds is a beautiful expedition through snow forests and the Land of Sweets, complete with Sugar Plum Fairies and Christmas treats galore.
“The Nutcracker” always adds fun to the holiday, said Aubrey Terry, of Layton, who plays a soldier in the ballet.
“I always look forward to Nutcracker — even if I don’t make it I go see it,” said Terry, 13. This will be her third dancing in the show.
“Everybody knows what the Nutcracker is. It’s just like a Christmas tradition.”
Sklute said “The Nutcracker” is the perfect ballet for Christmas time because of its subject matter and focus on families.
“It deals with the magic and fantasy of Christmas,” he said. “And it deals with families — it has children and families and so subsequently it really has something for the family at this time.”
It is important that Ballet West maintains the original full-length version for the sake of history, Sklute explained.
“This is part of America’s history not just Ballet West’s history and I think it’s very, very important for us to respect our history,” he said. “But, above all else, it’s a really good version of the Nutcracker. I’ve seen many, many Nutcrackers and this one is an excellent version of the Nutcracker. So along with it being such a vital and integral part of American history, and dance in America, it also is just a terrific ballet.”
A favorite part of being artistic director for Sklute during “The Nutcracker” is the fact that he gets to work with a large number of dancers due to having multiple casts.
“We put on a total of eight different casts for the Nutcracker,” Sklute said. “Four different, complete casts of children and eight different casts of company principals and soloists. And I think my favorite part of it is watching how every single one of my artists rises to the challenge that’s given them, and that’s always inspiring to me and always exciting.”
Rotating casts gives the dancers opportunities they might not otherwise get to participate in and helps keep the company prepared for any “wear and tear” or injuries and sickness that might prevent them from performing.
Nyah Arne, 11, will be dancing as Clara in the Ogden performances and in Salt Lake for a total of eight shows.
“I was like really surprised because I wasn’t really like going to get Clara, I was just going to get the experience of auditioning so I was really happy,” said Arne, a Draper resident.
For Terry, it’s all about performing, which she said definitely makes her a better dancer.
“You learn a lot in the practices how professional companies work,” Terry said.
Sklute said there are no fewer than 40 adult dancers in every given show and 65 or more children.
Aside from the Ogden and Salt Lake performances, Ballet West will also be performing “The Nutcracker” in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Dec. 10 through 14. Sklute said Ballet West has been to the Kennedy Center about four times since he’s been artistic director, and was asked to come back this year based off of the success of their 2012 run, which sold out.
Arne hopes those watching the ballet will feel happy.
“I hope that they are able to forget about their stuff — their day to day stuff,” she said.
The artists involved with “The Nutcracker” bring love and joy to the ballet, which Sklute hopes audience members will be able to feel, he said.
“I hope that they feel inspired by the wonderful music and I hope that they feel a real sense of the beauty of our holiday season,” Sklute said.
The Ogden performances will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 29, at the Val A. Browning Center, WSU, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. Tickets cost $20-$45 and can be ordered at www.symphonyballet.org.
Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” can also be seen Dec. 5 through 31 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City. There will be 23 matinee and evening performances, with evening shows beginning at 7 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. On Christmas Eve, there will be a special holiday matinee at noon. Tickets are from $19-$75 and can be ordered at www.balletwest.org, all ArtTix locations, the Capitol Theatre Box Office or by calling 801-869-6920. On-stage Sugar Plum Parties for children will follow each matinee with the exception of Dec. 24. Tickets are $10 each and are available by calling Ballet West’s ticket office at 801-869-6900.
To see other productions of “The Nutcracker” by various Top of Utah dance companies, view the listings below:
- Clytie Adams School of Ballet: 7:30 Nov. 20 and 21; 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22, Browning Center, WSU, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. $12. www.weberstatetickets.com.
Cache Valley Civic Ballet: 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 and 29, 1:30 p.m. Dec. 1, Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan. $12-$25, www.cvcballet.org.
Julie Moffitt Ballet School: 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and 8, 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 6. Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden. $8-$12, reserved seating, www.smithstix, box office Monday-Friday 2-6 p.m., 801-689-8700 or at the Julie Moffitt Ballet School, 2625 N. 100 West, Pleasant View, 801-786-1254. Sugar Plum Fairy Tea 1:45 p.m. Dec. 6, $8.
- Imagine Ballet Theatre with the New American Philharmonic Orchestra: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 13, 15, 19, with 2 p.m. matinees on Dec 13 and 20. Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden. $12-$25, www.smithtix.com, or at the box office Monday-Friday 2-6 p.m. Nutcracker Ballet Tea at the Ben Lomond Hotel, 2510 Washington Blvd., Ogden. 2 p.m. Dec. 6, $15, 801-393-5000.