A balletic Christmas tradition | VailDaily.com

A balletic Christmas tradition

Sarah Dixon Special to the Daily

Special to the Daily/Joanne MorganThe 2003 Nutcracker cast includes more than 100 people.

A classic holiday fairy tale, elaborate costumes and beautifully choreographed dance in an elegant performance hall: it sounds like a little girl’s dream.

To approximately 100 local children, that dream will come true this weekend as they perform in Friends of the Dance’s production of the holiday classic “The Nutcracker.”

“This is such a special occasion for all of them, to be dancing at the beautiful Vilar Center,” said Joann Moore, ballet teacher at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance and one of the directors of the production. “It’s a dream come true.”

With a cast of about 100 performers ranging in age from 6 to 17, this performance is no small feat.

“This is a full blown production of the ballet, from the initial party scene through to when they fly off into Neverland,” said Moore. “The principal dancers started practicing right after the auditions in September, and the rest of the cast began rehearsals in October.”

And all the practicing paid off.

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“It’s so beautifully done,” said Moore. “These kids are the most talented you’ll ever see. It’s a very unique cast. They work so well together. They love each other. They take care of each other.”

In addition to the talent of the cast, a special guest is using his skills to make the production eye-popping.

“Karen Samuelson is the artistic director, and her husband David is a master at costuming for ballets,” explained Moore. “There are costumes to make your mouth water! Everything is hand-sewn, and there’s even a paper mache polar bear.”

These lavish costumes did not come easily.

“Everything was done by hand,” said Moore. “We had a virtual sweat shop of parents working on these costumes.”

For the performers, being so bejeweled adds to the majesty of the entire production.

“All the kids feel so special in their costumes, and it makes them perform so well,” said Moore. “They feel so amazing.”

And with the guidance of directors like Ann Powell, Caroline Butler, Robin Peters, and Moore herself, the ballet promises to be a must-see.

“I can guarantee that no one will leave disappointed,” said Moore. “We only do this every two years, so the next time will be Christmas 2005. We had a sellout crowd two years ago, and tickets are going fast for this year.”

And the performances, which take place Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. and Dec 14 at 2 p.m., aren’t the only excitement for the weekend.

“There’s a gala celebration after the opening production with dancing and a DJ,” said Moore. “And after the Sunday show, there’s a sugar plum fairy’s party, where the little girls get to meet the dancers, and touch their customs – it’s very exciting for them.”

It’s exciting for the adults involved as well.

“After 20 years in the medical field, I was offered this opportunity, and I’ve never looked back,” explained Moore. “This is hands down the best job in the world. It’s so rewarding to work with every single one of these kids.”

And the rewards keep coming as former students go on to achieve great success and return to Vail to share their progress with their mentors.

“We have kids who were in the production years ago who come back each year to see the show,” Moore said. “We get to see them grow, and their support helps the program to grow and flourish. They continue to give back to the art.”

Because giving back is what it’s all about.

“We all want to acknowledge the contributions of the Buckman Blount Community fund, who provided us with the support we needed to be able to perform,” Moore said. “We’d never have been able to do this production without their help.”

In all, Moore said the support of the community has been invaluable to the success of productions such as the Nutcracker.

Now the community has a chance to see their own fulfill dreams and bring a classic holiday story to life. Tickets are $22.

Sarah Dixon is a freelance writer based in Vail.

Dancing nuts

what: Friends of the Dance present “The Nutcracker”

when: Friday, 7 p.m., Saturday, 7 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m.

where: Vilar Center for the Arts, Beaver Creek