High Point Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker:’ Was it only a dream?
By: Terry Rader
Who would have ever thought that the story of a 7-year-old girl’s amazing Christmas Eve dream written in 1816 by German author E.T.A. Hoffman would have created so much attention to honor the imagination of a child? How often do parents tell their children they were only dreaming when they wake up with fantastic tales of sugar plum fairies and dancing soldiers? Now, these so-called dreams can be experienced on stage for children, and adults to reconnect to their child-like wonder and the magic of Christmas with a surprising twist.
This year marks the celebration of High Point Ballet’s 31st season of The Nutcracker. From the initial opening in 1987 at the Edward C. Smith Civic Center in Lexington to performances at the High Point Theater and High Point University, High Point Ballet’s family holiday tradition returned to Lexington before finally dancing its way back to the High Point Theater, said HPB CEO, executive director and founder Rita Taylor.
HPB has a staff of 14, and some employees have been there for 16 to 20 years, Rita said. She said HPB offers exceptional training that has advanced over 300 diverse students to master their dance careers. HPB’s mission is to “create strong dancers, who are highly technical, can perform with confidence, experience, and assuredness to brave the current world of dance.”
Rita said that The Nutcracker’s full performances as a ballet are presented through the choreography of award-winning artistic director Gary Taylor, who usually plays the original story’s clockmaker and inventor, Drosselmeyer (played this year by professional dancer with HPB and UNCSA graduate Jeremy Huggins). Rita and Gary Taylor are the husband-wife team at HPB. Rita said Gary is known for his mastery of original works, innovative choreography, partnering, instruction and performance. Gary brings Clara’s dream to life in cooperation with the work of award-winning set designer, Howard C. Jones, costume designer Christine Fowle and lights by Craig Stelzenmueller.
Rita said The Nutcracker’s feature presentations include Act I with heroic toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, the party scene, the battle and the snow scenes. Act II includes the Land of the Sweets with dances by the Sugar Plum Fairy, The Cavalier and more. Rachael Dean, an HPB apprentice with the professional HPB division and recipient of multiple Regional Dance America dance scholarships, has played the part of The Sugar Plum Fairy since she was 13 years old. She has since attended two summer intensives with the Boston Ballet and was offered a scholarship at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. Other sugar plum fairies include Mary Costanza, an HPB student and Julie Cox Taylor, a professional dancer of The National Ballet and Richmond Ballet.
The Nutcracker Prince is played by Nathaniel Burns, an HPB student and the Cavalier by Eric Lehn of New York. Nicholas Franco of the Burklyn Ballet in Vermont plays the Snow King, and the three Snow Queens are played by Annabelle Black, Sarah Costanza and Juliette Neveu.
Special children’s performances are presented in two one-act Land of the Sweets formats for one day only. Rita said this shorter presentation features a parade of characters beginning one hour before the show, where children get to meet and interact with the characters and get their autographs while parents take photographs.
Rita said that all of HPB’s Nutcracker performances are written around Hoffman’s story, and there is a cast of 75 in the show. She said that while most people leave you in the dream, HPB does it differently by going back to Act I.
“We thought it was scary to leave the children wondering what happened to Clara, who is played by 14-year-old HPB student, Bella Gonzolas,” she said. “Instead, we take them back to where she is still sleeping under the tree with the Nutcracker to let them know she is safely back at home. When she awakens, she has a tiara on her head, which leads the audience to the assumption that it did happen and it wasn’t just a dream.”
“We’re delighted to have High Point Ballet back on our Passport to Entertainment series,” said High Point Theatre director David Briggs. “The show is beautifully danced with wonderful scenery and costumes. We are fortunate to have such a quality company in our own backyard.”
Nationally branded, Rita said that HPB continues to be an ambassador for the High Point arts community offering their members the teachings of award-winning choreographers, professional performers, and seasoned technical and creative staff from across the nation. Auditions and memberships are open to all dancers ages 6 and up. First-time audition dancers who want to apply with the High Point Ballet may find more details at highpointballet.org and may contact HPB directly for appropriate audition times at (336) 887-4472 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRY RADER is a writer, poet and songwriter formerly an ad agency pro creative director, branding strategist, Earth Harmony columnist, certified herbalist and flower essences practitioner turned storyteller on a mission to write stories to promote creative people, grassroots, sustainability and underground happenings in our community while she pet/home sits and writes her personal stories, songs, poems, and nature essays.
High Point city residents and groups of 10+ can call the High Point Theatre Box Office direct at (336) 887-3001 between noon and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday to take advantage of discounts. See The Nutcracker on 12/19, 12/20, 12/21 at 7:30 p.m, For online ticket purchases ($25-$35), visit www.highpointtheatre.com/events/ or call the High Point Theatre box office or purchase at the High Point Theater. See the Land of the Sweets Special Children’s Performances on 12/22, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets ($25) for are only available through the High Point Theatre. All shows are at the High Point Theatre, 220 East Commerce Ave., High Point, with free parking.