TEXARKANA, Texas — Every year, the Texarkana Community Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker" helps usher in festive thoughts as the winter holidays arrive.
Presented at the Perot Theatre, the TCB's annual show has, since 2008, been solely the "Nutcracker" classic with the beloved music of Tchaikovsky as accompaniment.
This TCB tradition started in 1967 with an initial performance of "Peter and the Wolf." Lately, the occasion has been all about "The Nutcracker," creating a winter dream world on stage — little candy canes, mice, flowers and dancers from faraway lands included.
Performances of "The Nutcracker" are as follows: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. In all, the productions pool the talents of 230 dancers who auditioned for these roles.
Patti Thomas and Ann Nicholas of the TCB work with the young dancers each year to bring this magic to life, and they get to see them grow in their roles and grow with "The Nutcracker."
"We've added some trees to the snow scene. We've added some peppermints to candy land," Thomas said. The changes bring more opportunities for young dancers to get involved. "We want to include everybody we can."
It's exciting to see it all come together during rehearsal week, which begins the Sunday before the first show. They've all worked since September to prepare, so months of hard work come together.
"It all just falls into place beautifully," Thomas said. Dance teachers have their own style and slightly different technique, so the result is new each year. "Each student looks a little bit different in what they do," Thomas said.
Soloist roles include Chloe Carpenter as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Will Porterfield as the Nutcracker Prince, Helen Clark Hays as Clara, Olivia George as Dew Drop Fairy, Carlin Scates as the Snow Queen, Mathew Plattner as the Snow King, Madison Tomlinson as the Ballerina Doll, Mollie Hemphill as the Harlequin Doll, Hailee Parton as the Reed Flute soloist, Travawyn Taylor as the Russian soloist, Matthew Plattner as the Mouse King, Paige Chambers as Mother Ginger. Richard and Vicki Hornock are the Council President and his wife, while Seth Small is Fritz. Michael Skotnik will perform as Herr Drosselmeyer.
Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's "Nutcracker and the Mouse King," the story of "The Nutcracker" is a childhood fantasy with a young girl's dreams.
Said Nicholas in an emailed description of the plot, "The girl, Clara, is thrilled with the party hosted by her parents on Christmas Eve and with the gift she receives, then finds herself transported in her dreams through battles between terrifying rats and transformed toy soldiers, through a forest filled with elegant dancing trees and snowflakes, and into a kingdom where her favorite sweets and her beloved Nutcracker perform variations and pas de deux for her pleasure."
Texarkana Community Ballet has eight dance schools cooperating to produce this show: Judith McCarty School of Dancing, All Stars Dance Center, Lana LaVoice Grounds School of Dance, Tammie Duncan School of Dance, Patti Smith's Dancing Unlimited, Joni's Gymnastics and Dance Centre, Texarkana Dance Academy, and Red Door Dance Academy.
For their dancers, performing in "The Nutcracker" teaches invaluable lessons about being in a serious production.
"It's tradition. I think it means a lot to all of these dance teachers. We get to get all of our students together. They learn so much," Thomas said. You might have a child who started as a mouse and grew from there. "We watch them every year progress and become a better dancer."
To Nicholas, there's an additional reason "The Nutcracker" is rewarding.
"Passing along the beauty of classical ballet to generation after generation," Nicholas said, noting it's also rewarding to see dancers grow from early years as an angel, mouse or party child. "Every year we have a new group of children that join in."
(Tickets: $13, $11, $9. Performance often sell out, so purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. Call the Perot Theatre Box Office at 903-792-4992 to purchase tickets, or visit TRAHC.org to buy tickets online.)