In celebration of the holiday season, the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance will present its rendition of “The Nutcracker.”
“The Nutcracker” will run Thursday, Dec. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m. in the UW College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.
Tickets cost $16 for the public, $13 for senior citizens and $8 for students. Tickets are available at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts box office and the Wyoming Union information desk, by calling (307) 766-6666 or going online at www.uwyo.edu/finearts.
This classic ballet fantasy is about a young girl, Clara, who receives a nutcracker for Christmas that spurs her fantastical dream. Based on the 19th century German fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann and featuring Tchaikovsky’s dazzling score, “The Nutcracker” comes alive with dancing snowflakes, magical mice, marching soldiers, waltzing flowers, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince.
UW dance Professor Marsha Knight directs the production that she and UW Associate Professor Jennifer Deckert choreographed. The UW Symphony Orchestra, directed by Michael Griffith, and the UW Lab School Treble Choir, directed by Jennifer Mellizo, provide the musical accompaniment.
Knight first decided to produce the ballet, on a limited scale, in 1988, setting it in the romantic “Old World” style typical of most “Nutcracker” productions.
“I was watching an old VHS of the 1988 production, and the contributions of marvelous people are apparent,” Knight says. “It was great fun to see the beginning vocabulary for ‘Snow Scene’ and the early work on Act 1, ‘Party Scene.’”
Beginning in 1994, the UW Department of Theatre and Dance began to present the ballet every four years, a massive undertaking involving many local children and community members, Knight adds.
UW’s “Nutcracker” grew in scale and scope with each production but, after 2002, it was clear that many costume pieces and scenic elements needed replacing. Lee Hodgson, UW costume design faculty member, saw this as an opportunity, proposing that UW’s “Nutcracker” take a new direction, one unique to Laramie and the West. The design team and Knight began resetting the ballet in 1890s Laramie in the Ivinson Mansion and its surrounding grounds.
“At the close of each ‘Nutcracker,’ the creative team meets to express what is in need of replacement and the future direction of the production,” Knight says. “I’d expressed wanting to take a new direction with the ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and thought about how to heighten its role in the show.”
Hodgson suggested using a motif of poinsettias for the waltz because poinsettias are associated with winter and the holiday season, and are old-fashioned flowers. Over time, the idea developed, and Hodgson designed a silhouette for the costumes late last spring. He refined the design and built a prototype over the summer.
Ron Steger, a professor emeritus and a former scenic design faculty member at UW, also returned to complete a new scenic drop. He added to the existing scenic drops, portals and moving stage pieces that he created for previous productions.
“Ron’s new piece is exquisite, and we were privileged this September to watch him paint it, standing with his long brush on that huge canvas drop on the floor of our main stage,” Knight says. “The addition of this section of the ballet completes the suite of scenic backdrops we have been building over the past 12 years. It is quite an accomplishment.”
Knight notes that all of the design faculty members are heavily involved in the current production, from scenic designer Scott Tedmon-Jones to lighting and projection designer Jason Banks, and Hodgson, who has taken on thousands of hours of costume design and construction.
Deckert, along with Assistant Professor André Megerdichian, have choreographed Act 2, Scene 1, which includes many of the dances with music so familiar to people, Knight says. Megerdichian coaches men in the production, as well as co-choreographs the Arabian dance.
“Their roles are pivotal, as they’ll be taking on the production at some point in the future — very capably so,” Knight adds.
“The Nutcracker” had its premiere in 1892 at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia — with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivonov, and Tchaikovsky’s score — but it was not well-received. It was first performed in the United States by the San Francisco Ballet in 1944 but did not become a holiday tradition until 1954, when revered American choreographer George Balanchine produced “The Nutcracker” with the New York City Ballet.
For more information, call Kathy Kirkaldie, UW Fine Arts coordinator, at (307) 766-2160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.