Ballet West Academy’s ‘Nutcracker’ mixes traditional nuggets with new morsels
“Park City Nutcracker” 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22 Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. $20 and $25 tututix.com
Sugar plums will dance not only in the minds of children but on stage when the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy brings “Park City Nutcracker” to the Eccles Center this Saturday.
The Sugar Plum Fairy will be joined by Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, puppets, harlequins and snow royalty, said Cati Snarr, principal of the dance school.
The productions, which will open at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., will feature original choreography by Ballet West’s late founder, Willam F. Christensen, known affectionately as Mr. C.
Christensen is credited with creating the first full-length performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet in the United States in 1944, Snarr said.
“The party boys and girls, snow scene, the toy bear and wind-up doll, Waltz of the Flowers, and the Sugar Plum Fairy’s adagio, coda and variation will all be Mr. C’s work,” she said. “The other divertissements are in the style of Mr. C, but choreographed by myself and Michelle Player and Tonia Blomquist, who are on our faculty.”
Those scenes include a troupe of dolls, puppets, a puppet master and his harlequin sidekicks, according to Snarr.
“I was told to make the performance a little longer this year, so we added the puppet master, which we had taken out in the past,” she said. “It’s rare when people tell me the ballet is too short.”
Snarr enjoyed combining Christensen’s and the academy staff’s choreography for the Park City concerts.
“There’s the creativity and figuring out how to put all the puzzle pieces together, so everyone has a moment to be highlighted,” she said. “Also, to have access to the oldest ‘Nutcracker’ in the United States is such a honor.”
Christensen brought “The Nutcracker” to Salt Lake City from San Francisco in 1955 and set it on a new company — Utah Civic Ballet – which eventually became Ballet West.
“People from all over the world visit Park City during the winter, and have the opportunity to see this huge piece of institutional dance history that goes back almost 80 years,” Snarr said. “So to share that and create the warm community feeling is why I love ‘Nutcracker.’”
Saturday’s performances, which are a suites, showcase 115 dancers and run about 72 minutes with no intermission.
“There are no parents on stage, but most kids pretend they don’t have parents when they play, anyway,” Snarr said with a laugh.
Snarr’s favorite piece in the Park City performance is the snow scene pas de deux, featuring Maren Florence and Jacob Hancock.
“I love that I was allowed to bring it to Park City, because I think it’s the most beautiful choreography Mr. C has ever done,” she said.
Florence and Hancock come from Ballet West Academy’s downtown campus in Salt Lake City.
“The fact that they are from Salt Lake City bridges the gap between the campuses,” Snarr said. “I got the chance to be a part of their rehearsal process, and they are so prepared and so beautiful.”
Snarr, who served as Ballet West’s children’s ballet mistress for 13 years, said working with young dancers is the ultimate reward when presenting “The Nutcracker.”
“Every single child comes to rehearsal, and every single child can’t wait to show up for the next rehearsal,” she said. “They not only love the performances, they also love the process that gets them onto the stage. If you mentor them right, that passion stays with them. And I love that we can continue this in Park City.”
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