What began as a roving production with performances in the Tracy Community Center and local schools has made its home at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, 715 Central Ave., during the past six years.
On Dec. 15 and 16, dozens of young local dancers trained by Deborah Skinner, Academy of Performing Arts studio owner and choreographer, will take the stage in the Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Theater for daily performances at
1 and 6 p.m.
“I think we’re even more together this year than in the past,” Skinner said during a show rehearsal Tuesday, Nov. 20. “It’s different every year. I work with the energy of the kids, so it depends on who is in it.”
“The Nutcracker” is a two-act ballet to the musical score of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It tells the story of a girl named Clara, who falls in love with a nutcracker she receives as a Christmas present, and her adventures when the toy turns into a prince.
This year, the show’s cast consists of 115 dancers with varied levels of expertise, including students from Skinner’s special-needs class, who will perform in the party scene and the fight with the Mouse King.
To add a little spice to this year’s production, Skinner choreographed some contemporary twists.
Instead of the traditional group of toy soldiers battling with an army of mice, she created a hip-hop number with Delta Force soldiers facing down the Mouse King. An acrobatic circus will enliven the tea scene.
She also plans to have members of the special-needs class dance with their parents on stage during the party scene.
Those acquainted with the Children’s Dance Theater production will see a few familiar faces in the cast and also some first-time stars.
Performing the lead role for the second year in a row is 12-year-old dancer Thalia Cruzat.
“It’s fun,” she said during a rehearsal break Tuesday. “When I got Clara, I was very excited. It’s always an honor to be in a show, and it’s a greater honor to be the lead.”
Thalia said her favorite part of the show is dancing and watching the other dancers on the stage, and seeing the show’s “magic come alive.”
Another key character in the ballet is the Sugar Plum Fairy, performed for the first time by 14-year-old Julia Nunes.
During rehearsals Tuesday, she said portraying the Sugar Plum Fairy was a dream come true.
“I was really excited (to get the part),” Julia said. “I’ve been in seven shows, and this is my biggest part. I love that everyone gets to be involved. I love the special-needs part — it always makes me smile.”
Preparations for this year’s production began in August, with auditions and rehearsals kicking off in September, Skinner said.
“In the next few weeks, we will be putting it all together like a big puzzle,” she said.
Tickets for the Dec. 15 and 16 shows are listed on the Grand Theatre website, www.atthegrand.org, at $15, $20 and $25 per person, depending upon seat location in the theater. Tickets can be purchased at the Grand Theatre box office on Central Avenue or from the website.
A free preview is planned for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the West Valley Mall, 3150 Naglee Road. Costumed dancers will perform excerpts from “The Nutcracker” at the bookstore’s mall entrance.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.