‘The Nutcracker’ enchants at the Vilar in Beaver Creek
Vail Youth Ballet Company and Vail Valley Academy of Dance perform the classic holiday ballet
- What: The Nutcracker Ballet presented by Vail Friends of Dance
- When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
- Tickets: $38 and $45
- More info and to purchase tickets: VailFriendsofDance.com or call 970-845-8497
- Note: The bake sale and boutique will offer delicious treats and unique holiday and Nutcracker gifts, including pointe-shoes that Vail Youth Ballet Company dancers have decorated. Please pay in cash only. In addition, an online auction started Dec. 10 and runs through Dec. 18; look for the QR code at performances to bid on your favorite items.
- Parking: Free in Lower Beaver Creek Elk and Bear lots after 1 p.m. (allow time to catch the free shuttle). Parking in Beaver Creek Village at the Villa Montane and Village Hall parking structures is free for three hours with ticket stub, but these lots fill up quickly with skier traffic, particularly during the matinee performances.
“The Nutcracker” ballet holds a rich history dating back to 1892, when the director of Moscow’s Imperial Theatres commissioned and premiered it. Since then, the story of Clara awakening to the wider world — and love — has touched audiences’ minds and hearts worldwide, igniting a collective, enchanting holiday tradition. This weekend, local and guest dancers light up the Vilar Performing Arts Center with captivating choreography, settings and costumes as they interpret the story, set to Tchaikovsky’s score.
“The Nutcracker” features dancers from the Vail Youth Ballet Company and Vail Valley Academy of Dance (VVAD), as well as several community members filling the roles of party parents and Mother Ginger, VVAD instructor and South African ballroom champion Colin Meiringas Drosselmeyer and professional dancers Michael Stone as the Cavalier and Nathan Krewe-Klug as the Nutcracker Prince.
Stone has performed as a soloist in the 70th anniversary of Jose Limón International Dance Festival, among other accolades and partners with Sugar Plum Fairy Lily Marion this year.
Krewe-Klug holds a bachelor’s degree in dance performance and composition and has performed with Chicago Repertory Ballet and Winifred Haun & Dancers; he’s currently in his second season with Mareck Dance. He dances alongside Jillian Lee, who debuts as Clara this year, after taking dance classes since she was three years old and performing in 10 previous Nutcrackers.
“This is a critical performance in my dance journey and resembles how much I love to dance. It shows how passionate I am,” said 17-year-old Lee, who plans to major in psychology and minor in theater studies, adding how partnering with professional, guest dancers ups the ante. “They’re super-talented artists, so it makes us perform even better — to the best of our ability because it’s intimidating, in a good way — and it gives us more experience with partnering.”
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The four local high school seniors who earned featured roles through auditions (Lee, Marion, Riley Coe and Reese Dean) each have spent about 200 hours rehearsing since mid-September, said artistic director Ashley Calligan, in addition to their regular dance classes.
Coe, an 18-year-old who has been dancing for nine years and has worked her way up from flower and snowflake corps to Snow Queen, Arabian Princess and Dew Drop, has been practicing “nonstop to maintain my stamina and get the complicated turn sequences and big jumps,” which are different from last year, she said.
“Our feet hurt, but we’re all having such a great time. It’s such a special thing to do with all of my best friends. It’s truly a bonding experience,” Coe said. “We’ve spent so many years perfecting ‘The Nutcracker,’ and when you get to perform it with your best friends, it makes the story come to life.”
Calligan maintains the spirit of “The Nutcracker” while also instituting new roles, choreography and stage designs to highlight everyone’s talent and showcase the entire cast, which has increased by 20 dancers since last year.
“There’s a level of artistry to ‘The Nutcracker,’ but there’s also a spirit our artistic director, Ashley Calligan, brings that I’ve never had a teacher bring. It’s encouraging and always positive. Her criticism is always constructive and never feels like it brings me down,” Lee said.
Calligan’s training at The Academy of Colorado Ballet, The Academy of Russian Ballet and Burklyn Ballet Theatre, as well as her solo performances and role as assistant to the artistic director and ballet mistress with Burklyn Ballet Theatre informs her expertise directing “The Nutcracker.”
The performance features extravagant costumes, some of which have been donated by the Colorado Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre and others that parents or local seamstresses have made. Dancers like Coe think of the Colorado Ballet dancers, looking up to them, as she wears their tutus.
Festive backdrops built by parents and Calligan’s wood craftsman husband, Ryan, add to the quality of the performance.
“This high-level local production features incredible artistry, breathtaking dancing, beautiful costumes and colorful sets that are on par with performances seen from large-scale, big city studios,” said spokesperson Meggen Kirkham.
Everyone, from young children to adults can appreciate Clara’s magical journey with the Nutcracker Prince, which includes the battle between soldiers and Mouse King’s army, the lands of the Snowflakes and Sweets and celebratory dances from around the world.
“It’s a timeless story,” Calligan said. “It’s easy to follow, so everyone in the family gets something out of the story. The music, costumes and dancing all come together in such a nice way that makes it interesting from start to finish — you’re engrossed in it.”
“It’s a high-end and wonderful show,” Coe said. “Personally, I don’t think I could get tired of seeing or performing in ‘The Nutcracker,’ because each dance is so different and special.”