Las Cruces Chamber Ballet presents ‘The Nutcracker’
By Zak Hansen
Las Cruces Bulletin
At the Stahlbaum’s cozy family Christmas celebration, youngsters Clara and Fritz greet the arriving guests while their parents bestow toys on the visiting children.
Suddenly the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer appears, entertaining the tots with tricks and wind-up toys. His special gift to Clara – a wooden nutcracker – meets a quick an untimely fate at the hand of jealous Fritz, who breaks it in a fit.
Drosselmeyer repairs the doll, the party comes to a close and the children head off to bed – until Clara is beset by giant mice, led by the Rat King, rescued by the valiant, life-sized Nutcracker. After the battle, Clara is whisked from the Land of Snow across the Lemonade Sea to the Kingdom of Sweets, where they’re greeted by none other than the Sugar Plum Fairy with a grand ball in their honor.
The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, from its longtime home at Michele’s Dance Academy, presents the 32nd annual production of “The Nutcracker” ballet with three performances this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 18-20 – just in time for the holidays.
This year, Herr Drosselmeyer (Travis Manning) entertains guests again with his magic dolls, the Ballerina and the Sultan (Angelina and Ashleigh Randazzo, respectively). Clara (Shannon Downey) and Fritz (Miranda Romero) continue their sibling rivalry, and the Snow Queen (Jade Kelley) will deliver Clara and her new friend the Prince (David Paulson-Cahall) to the Land of the Sweets, where the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be shared by Victoria Rel and guest artist Seattle Eberwine.
While Las Cruces Chamber Ballet has been performing “The Nutcracker” since 1983, each year producers strive to keep it fresh, and this year is no exception.
Two years ago, in 2013 – the 30th anniversary production of “The Nutcracker” and 35th of Michele’s Dance Academy – Artistic Director Kevin Self along with Ballet Mistress Charlene Manning and Assistant Ballet Mistress Laura Vehcione, overhauled the two-act ballet’s entire first half – a massive and deeply involved 50-dancer piece.
This year, the production will feature new sets, new choreography, new costumes and new special effects, making it perfect for theatregoers young and old, whether they know the piece or not.
Another treat this year will be a return appearance by Tiffany Hohle, pulling double duty as Mrs. Stahlbaum and the Rat Queen. A former member of Las Cruces Chamber Ballet, Hohle has returned to the Mesilla Valley after her dance career took her to Las Vegas and Japan, as well as a spot in the San Diego, Calif., group Culture Shock in its hip-hop adaptation of “The Nutcracker.” As the Rat Queen, Hohle will battle the Nutcracker (Jade Denninger) and her entourage of mice. “The Nutcracker” ballet was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and scored by renowned composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (who also penned “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty”) in the late 1800s. It was adapted from German author E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 “Nussnacker und Mausekönig,” or “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
“The Nutcracker” was first performed on Sunday, Dec. 18, 1892, in St. Petersburg … and was unsuccessful, save for its composer’s titular 20-minute suite, inescapable for the month or so preceding Christmas even today, some 100 years later, filling department store speakers and holiday soundtracks alike.
In the latter half of the 20th century, the ballet’s popularity surged after George Balanchine, the “father of the New York Ballet,” revived it in 1954. Since then its popularity has exploded, and today it holds its place as a perennial holiday standard, performed each Christmastime by thousands of dancers in hundreds of companies across North America and beyond.
Performances of the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” ballet are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 18-19, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. Atkinson Recital Hall is located at 1075 N. Horseshoe Drive on the New Mexico State University campus.
Tickets are $21 and are available at the Pan American Center box office in person or by calling 646-1420, or at www.ticketmaster.com.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call Michele’s Dance Academy at 527-1893 or visit www. michelesdanceacademy. biz.
Zak Hansen can be reached at zak@