The Nutcracker comes to The Columbia

Annie Goodman

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The Hammond Ballet Company presents 'The Nutcracker' every year in celebration of Christmas. This year’s show has dancers from three parishes. Courtesy of Linda Ross

The Hammond Ballet Company is to present “The Nutcracker” at The Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts

“Hammond Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ is an opportunity to see a classic Christmas story portrayed in a unique way,” said Treasurer and Board Member of the Hammond Ballet Linda Ross. “The audience will be pleased with the quality of the production and the talents of area dancers as well as the professional guest artists.  It has grown from a small one act production at Vonnie Borden to a part of The Columbia Theatre’s season. The ballet is a classic art form well worth being part of an education and appreciation of the arts.”

Student tickets are available for $15 with an ID, $39 for loge seating and $25 for orchestra seating. Performances are scheduled to be held Dec. 8 and 9 at 7 p.m.

Ross believes the array of characters, costumes and dancing makes the performance appealing to children as well as adults.

“I think the variety of the characters makes it different,” said Ross. “There’s a lot of fun in it. Many ballets are a bit more serious. ‘The Nutcracker’ starts with a party scene and the gift of a nutcracker. It moves to a battle between a nutcracker-come-to-life and his soldiers against a large rat king and his army of mice.”

According to Ross, it is the portrayal of a story through movement that makes a ballet unlike other performances.

“Many stage performances are a play telling a story, a musical or music performance,” said Ross. “Ballet is a story expressed through dance and acting without voices a story told without words using music and dance.”

The Hammond Ballet Company held an open audition for this performance in September and selected dancers from three parishes.

“Dancers this year are from a three-parish area,” said Ross. “Sometimes SLU students audition and are cast. Dancers are cast in roles according to their ability.  There are 102 cast members in this year’s production. Rehearsals begin, and costume fittings, which often require alterations, cleaning or new costumes, are scheduled.”

The Hammond Ballet Company performs “The Nutcracker” every year, so they are always finding ways to keep it fresh.

“The artistic director and associate director decide whether new roles requiring new costumes will be added, as well as new props,” said Ross. “We have added a walnut boat and large swan, dubbed ‘the big duck’ by a former Clara. Last year, we had a cook and a stove. The directors keep the performance fresh by changing something each year, whether a new role, prop or a change in choreography.”

Ross explained what she feels are the entrancing aspects of ballet.

“I personally am fascinated by the difficulty of the pointe performance and grace of the ballet dancers,” said Ross. “It is so graceful but quite strenuous for the dancer. I love the pirouettes of the ballerinas and the powerful leaps of the male dancers.”

Ross thinks attendees will be surprised to learn that some familiar songs are from this ballet.

“While I have seen a number of ballets, here and in other cities, I am most familiar with ‘The Nutcracker,’” said Ross. “I think the complexity of the dance and staging would surprise them. Often, they are familiar with the music but never knew it was associated with a ballet.”

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