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Thankful for traditions on stage

Every year, no matter what has happened, I always at least attempt to find something I am thankful for, in honor of the holiday and my family’s great, big fried-turkey traditions. I am lucky. Because whether losing a job, a relationship, or struggling through an injury, I’ve always had my family to fall back on. And so every year I am thankful for my loving family, and the many traditions we have, including watching The Nutcracker. This year, I’m thankful for the many familyfriendly and traditional productions in the Triad that gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with my loved ones.

There are actually quite a few instances of sugar plum fairies gracing the area this year, but one in particular is specially tailoring its show even more so for families. High Point Ballet will once again put on its annual The Nutcracker, with the addition of a special Land of the Sweets Nutcracker production, an abridged version of the classic ballet tailored specially for children.

The production includes a special hour of festivities before the curtain rises, including a parade of characters, a chat with the Sugar Plum Fairy and pictures with the Snow Queen.

“A lot of the time kids can be scared of dancers in costume,” said Brittany Petruzzi of High Point Ballet. “We’ve found that when the kids are able to meet the characters beforehand, especially masked characters with their masks off (like the Rat King), it helps mitigate this fear. Boys and girls alike seem to love meeting the Prince, the Rat King, the Snow Queen and her many fairies.”

Petruzzi said children can also get autographs and enter a drawing to win several items: one of several pairs of decorated pointe shoes, the Rat King’s sword, the Prince’s sword and various smaller items. “All of this serves to give children a personal connection to the story they’re about to be told,” she said. “We’re always more interested when we know someone who’s in a production, and it’s no different for these kids.”

The performance is only 65 minutes long, compared to the usual two hours, so that kids can experience the whole story, but without challenging their attention spans.

Petruzzi also pointed out that the production is a great way to introduce the art of dance to any children interested. “I think a lot of parents find it one of the more intimidating art forms they might introduce their kids to,” she said. “Ultimately, dance is simply another way to tell a story and Gary Taylor, our choreographer, is a masterful storyteller. He’s been using body and movement to tell stories for his entire life, and, well, let’s just say he’s fluent.”

For me, taking dance was a great way to bond with my family, too, especially my mom. She drove me to practice several times a week and it gave us at least 20 minutes of one-on-one time in the car without my two brothers. It was nice. We still, to this day, laugh about me trying to change into my leotard in the floorboard of the car because we were notorious for being late everywhere we went.

Even now that I’m no longer a dancer, my mom and I enjoy our tradition of watching The Nutcracker and reminiscing about my old dancing days. The time I was a “serious” toy soldier and couldn’t stop laughing at my grandmother in the audience. Or the first time I performed at Carolina Theatre and I thought I had hit “the big time” with my own dressing room and light-up mirror.

Dance holds so many fond memories for my family and I, and I’m so thankful that I get to share them and spread the word about dance productions, so other families can experience them, too. The Nutcracker is such a wonderful and magical production to experience as a family, and I think it’s so important to expose kids to every art form. You never know what might grab their interest. !

LENISE WILLIS, a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill’s journalism school, has experience in acting and ballet, and has been covering live performances since 2010.

WANNA go?

High Point Ballet’s The Nutcracker runs at both High Point Theatre, 220 E. Commerce Ave., and the Edward C. Smith Civic Center, 217 S. Main St., Lexington, Dec. 10-19. Dec. 19 is the special Land of the Sweets family production. All tickets are $30 for adults; $27 for students and seniors.

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