Thomasville Times Enterprise

November 29, 2013

‘The Nutcracker’ kicks off

Staff report

THOMASVILLE — South Georgia Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” returns to the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium to bring the holiday season to life with exquisite dancing, fanciful characters and a thrilling trip into the Land of Sweets.  The Company will perform this beloved ballet Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., marking South Georgia Ballet’s 16th production of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.”

Additionally, two outreach matinees designed for school groups will be presented on Monday.

“The Nutcracker” is the perfect way to ring in the holiday season and to introduce children, young and old, to the power and beauty of classical dance.  Staged with spectacular backdrops and brilliant costumes, the South Georgia Ballet dancers express “The Nutcracker” tale with a blend of dance and music, spellbinding the audience.

 For more than 100 years, the story of the ballet has proven irresistible to both children and adults alike. Set in 19th-century Germany, “The Nutcracker” story opens on Christmas Eve at a grand house where the Stahlbaums are hosting their annual Christmas party, welcoming the arrival of their family and friends. The Stahlbaum children, Clara and Fritz, also welcome their friends, dancing and playing. The party scene is festive with music and dance which is interrupted with the arrival of the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara’s godfather, and his nephew.  Drosselmeyer is a skilled clock and toymaker who casts a spell on the party guests and introduces Clara and his nephew.  He then captures the party’s attention when he presents three life-sized dolls; Harlequin, Columbine and the Soldier Doll.  After entertaining everyone with the dancing dolls, Drosselmeyer presents Clara with a special gift, a beautiful Nutcracker.  Fritz, Clara’s spunky young brother, becomes jealous of Clara’s gift, grabs the Nutcracker and promptly breaks it.  Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a magical handkerchief drawn from the air. As the evening winds down, the guests depart and Clara sneaks back to the Christmas tree to check on her beloved Nutcracker, falling asleep with him in her arms.    

As the clock strikes midnight, strange things begin to happen.  The Christmas toys come to life as the room fills with an army of mice, led by the fierce Mouse Queen.  The Nutcracker awakens to lead his army of toys in a battle against the mice.  As the Mouse Queen appears to overpower the Nutcracker, Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse Queen, hitting her squarely in the head and distracting her long enough for the Nutcracker to strike a fatal blow.  Defeated, the mice run away, carrying the lifeless body of their leader. 

The Nutcracker is then transformed into a handsome Prince.  The Prince invites Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted winter wonderland, where they are greeted by dancing snowflakes.  The Prince escorts Clara through the snow-filled forest on a beautiful sleigh to The Land of Sweets where they are welcomed by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Prince relays how Clara saved him from the Mouse Queen and Clara is crowned and placed on a throne.  She is rewarded with a celebration of dancers including The Peppermint and Arabian princesses, the Chinese dragon, Marzipan, the Spanish regalia, Mother Ginger and her Bon Bons, the Rose Queen, Tea Roses and Flowers. 

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas de Deux in honor of Clara.  Drosselmeyer changes the Prince back into a wooden Nutcracker and Clara dances one final time before falling asleep under the Christmas tree. 

“The Nutcracker” is staged, choreographed and directed by South Georgia Ballet Founder and Co-Artistic Director Alison Bundrick with Co-Artistic Director Melissa June and Ballet Mistress Emily Chapo.

“Our students are so fortunate to have choreographers like Ms. June and Ms. Chapo to work with them,” according to Bundrick. “This year’s performance is filled with some of the most beautiful, challenging and creative choreography ever to grace our stage. This may be our 16th ‘Nutcracker,’ but it is truly a brand new show from beginning to end. Our audiences will be enthralled with this innovative Nutcracker and so impressed with the talent and technical virtuosity of our dancers.”

Dancers from South Georgia Ballet range in age from 8-18. They all dance multiple roles and spend hundreds of hours in the studio preparing for the ballet. In addition, local adults and children join the cast in the roles of Adult Party Guests, Party Boys, Mother Ginger and Arabian Men, making The Nutcracker a true community event.

Company dancers are from Thomasville, Cairo and the Moultrie area and from six area counties. Adult party guests this year include Molly Clifton of Thomasville as Clara’s mother, Dr. Tim Daniel as Clara’s father, Della Lovett, Shanna Derby, Lewis Singletary, Darryl Davidson, Lucas Haaren, Jeremy Williams, and Cason Wells.  The energetic party boys are played by Nick Kadel, Fisher Clements, Thomas Beverly, Will Nicholson and Nick Popiel with Marshall Dunaway starring as Fritz. Jeff Lovett returns as the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Last but not least, Kendon Warren makes his debut performance as Mother Ginger. 

Professional guest artists this year include A Reum Chung dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Daniel Benavides in the role of Cavalier.  Chung is a principal dancer with the Orlando Ballet and marks her seventh year as a principal member of Orlando Ballet. Benavides, also a principal dancer with the Orlando Ballet, will perform the role of Cavalier, and this year marks his eighth season with the company.  In addition, Colton Wall makes his debut in Thomasville as the Nutcracker Prince.  Wall is completing his first semester at FSU in the School of Dance.  Prior to his enrollment at FSU, Wall trained and performed with various dance companies around the country.  

The role of Clara is played this year by Maria Dunbar, a junior at Scholars Academy, who has been dancing for 14 years. This season will mark her seventh “Nutcracker” performance. Dunbar has also trained nationwide at prestigious intensive programs including Joffrey New York and Tallahassee Ballet. This past summer, Dunbar was chosen to attend The Governor’s Honors Program in dance where she spent six weeks training intensively.  Additionally, Dunbar has been a volunteer with SGB’s Step UP! program which provides dance instruction to children in the area from the Marguarite Neel Williams Boys and Girls Club, the Thomasville Resource Center and the Jackie Robinson Boys and Girls Club in Cairo.

Dunbar, excited about her role as Clara, says, “Dancing the role of Clara has been such an honor because I have dreamed of being the character since I was a little girl and it is such a privilege to be such a positive influence for other young ladies.”

BTickets can be purchased at the Box Office located at the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium (Jackson Street entrance), by calling 229-378-ARTS(2787) or at “Nutcracker” tickets range from $10-$20 and reserved seating is available.