Local dancers prepare for debut

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

For more than a generation, the Montgomery Ballet has brought professional dance to Alabama.

Now, the troupe comes to Selma, at 7 p.m., Dec. 4 at Pickard Auditoium, where its dancers will bring the classic fairy tale ballet about Clara, Fritz, the King of Mice and the Nutcracker.

The story keeps adults and children riveted and the music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky has stood the test of time.

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But there’s more.

A group of ballet students from Selma will participate in the professional ballet — their debuts as mice and soldiers.

“We went on a field trip in the fifth or sixth grade (to see the “Nutcracker”), and I thought it was really neat to watch,” said Sarah Frazier, a ninth-grader at Morgan Academy, who’ll perform in the ballet. “I’m really excited. It reminds me a lot of the dance we did last year. We did a cat dance like out of the muscial ‘Cats,’ and so it’s a lot of that, and the dance will make you breathe hard.

Sarah has taken ballet since she was 3 or 4 years old. She says the years of practice have built up to this level of performance, “just like in a recital.”

Lauren Barnes, a sixth-grader at Morgan likes the Christmas feel of the story

“I know that there’s a girl who has a dream about her nutcracker fighting mice,” she said. “He saves her, and they go off to this magical land, and they live happily ever after.”

Lauren will play a soldier. “We fight the mice and — we’re not really fighting.”

Those who remember the story by E.T.A. Hoffman will recall the story opens on Christmas Eve at the Silberhause house, where the family has a party. The children, Clara and Fritz dance and play as the family welcomes guests and family.

Uncle Drosselmeyer arrives and brings gifts for Clara and Fritz. He gives Clara a beautiful nutcracker, which takes away everyone’s breath. Fritz becomes jealous and breaks the nutcracker.

The night wears on, and the children go to bed, except for Clara, who worries so about her nutcracker, she goes downstairs and falls asleep.

But at midnight, the magic happens. Clara wakes up to see the mice coming from all corners of the room and the nutcracker come to life with all the toy soldiers.

A battle ensues between the creatures and the soldiers led by the nutcracker.

Clara saves the day by rapping the Rat King over the head, which allows the nutcracker to conquer him.

The victory breaks a spell held over the nutcracker, and he becomes a handsome prince. The prince takes Clara on a trip to the Land of Snow, where she is welcomed by dancing snowflakes and the Snow king and queen.

Clara and the prince continue their journey into the Land of Sweets, where the Sugarplum Fairy welcomes them. The prince tells the story of the battle, and the fairy holds a celebration of dances.

When Clara comes back, she finds herself on the couch. Did she dream all this?

Jordan Cruz, another sixth-grader from Morgan, said she always wanted to see the “Nutcracker,” but now she gets to perform in it.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing all my friends that are watching me because they’re really excited about coming to see me.”

Tickets for the Dec. 4 performance at Pickard Auditorium are $20 for orchestra; $15 for general admission and $10 for balcony seats with student discounts.

Tickets are available at the Centre for Commerce, 875-7241 or at Truax and Co., 874-9600.

Sponsors include the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National endowment for the Arts, ALA-Tom Resource Conservation and Development Council, BankTrust, Buchanan Forest Management, Rep. Yusuf A. Salaam of Dallas County District 67 and Talton Communications Inc.

A pre-theater dinner, beginning at 5:30 p.m., is available at The St. James Hotel. Call 872-3234 to make reservations.