The Hammond ballet magic on and off stage


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The Hammond Ballet Company invited professional dancers to perform with them during last year’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Maiah Woodring, Staff Reporter

According to Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre Roy Blackwood, “The Nutcracker” is the most popular production that the theatre shows. This year, the classic tale is back and will be performed Dec. 7-8 at 7 p.m. at the Columbia Theatre. 

Blackwood, who is accustomed to tickets for this Hammond Ballet Company production being sold out, discussed the reason why.

“This is comprised of school children primarily,” said Blackwood. “Parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, they all come and so, most typically, those shows are all sold out.”

Blackwood explained a reason for the show’s popularity.

Blackwood said, “It’s not only because it’s a wonderful, timeless story, but because it’s that time of year when people like to get together as family, and what’s better if you can get together with your family and someone’s going to entertain you, right? So, it’s a very popular show from that standpoint.”

Blackwood explained that the hardest part of setting up for a production like this falls on the technical director.

“The Hammond Ballet is made up of dance students, obviously, and as such, they’re not professionals,” said Blackwood. “So, they’ve got their hands full learning how to dance and whatever else they’re gonna do, and so the tech director’s job is to make sure that the choreography works out well.”

Blackwood elaborated on what difficulties may fall onto the technical director.

“There will be four or five drops, and the drops are the backdrops that you see behind the dancers,” said Blackwood. “That’s a big deal because in ‘The Nutcracker,’ of course you’re inside this palatial estate where Clara lives, and there’s a Christmas tree, and at a certain point, the Christmas tree grows. So, that’s a big deal. The backdrops are a big deal, and the light and sound is all a big deal, and that’s why I said probably the most difficult aspect is the tech part of it out there because the rest of the contracts and the selling tickets, that’s all standard stuff that we do all the time.”

Blackwood discussed how long it takes for the dance students to train for the performance.

“They take three months, and they train those kids up, and they learn the dances and all that sort of thing,” explained Blackwood. “The other half of it is the one week that they take from load in to production. That’s five days. So, they’ll load in on Dec. 1, and then they’ll rehearse all this week, and then a performance here on Friday and a performance here on Saturday.”

Associate Director for Operations and Production at the Columbia Theatre Pete Pfeil acknowledged that set work provides a challenge.

“The load-in and rehearsal process is the most difficult aspect,” said Pfeil. “Even though the dances are the same, the dancers are moving up into new dances for them as they get more experienced. We also have some very quick set changes that my amazing crew has to accomplish.”

For Pfeil, the most rewarding part of the production is “the realization that our hometown ‘Nutcracker’ is a wonderful, very polished traditional production.”