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Nutcracker laden with talent

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff

What may be the most popular of the Christmas shows has firmly established itself in Park City.

Park City Dance will perform its fourth annual adaptation of The Nutcracker almost exactly 114 years to the day it first premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia, Dec. 17, 1892. Park City’s version of the ballet will take place Dec. 16 at the Eccles Center at 2 and 7 p.m.

Trish Ryland, co-founder of Park City Dance, said the ballet has turned into one of Park City’s favorite events and her students take pride in performing the show.

"This is a very, very great privilege for them," Ryland said. "They know that it’s becoming a Park City tradition. The lead roles are coveted."

The Park City Dance students train about four days per week on choreography, tap and other techniques. Those who passed The Nutcracker audition in September have doubled their practice time to include rehearsals for the show.

"That’s just part of the whole dance experience," Ryland said. "At the end of this production they feel success, that they’ve done something very valuable."

The story follows a young girl, Clara, who receives a gift, a wooden Nutcracker, from Godfather Drosselmeyer at a Christmas Eve party. The gift becomes the hit of the party and her brother Fritz, in a jealous rage, grabs the nutcracker from Clara and breaks it. That sets in motion the mystical journey Clare takes to the magical Land of Snow with a prince, the Nutcracker, as her guide.

"It’s delightful, it’s really fun," Ryland said. "It’s the kind of show that is entertaining for everyone in the family for young kids and grandmas and grandpas especially for the males in the family."

Ryland said Park City Dance’s version of the ballet is about half the time of a typical showing because they perform only one act. This, she said, is what appeals to some of the men or people who are not as interested in ballet.

"We’ve heard year after year how much the dads have enjoyed it," Ryland said.

"I would say that it’s very family-friendly because it’s shorter and men will like it better," said Sandy Flury, co-owner of Park City Dance.

While making the show shorter, Park City Dance hasn’t sacrificed talent. In fact, this may be its most talented cast of dancers yet.

"We have some really impressive dancers," Flury said.

The cast comprises of 70 dancers from Park City that range in age from 5 to 18 with the principle roles of the Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier being danced by adult professionals.

Park City resident Erin Smith will return as the Snow Queen. She received dance training in Park City, Salt Lake, Los Angeles and New York. The Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by Natalia Chopourskia. She is from St. Petersburg, Russia. She and Smith are both instructors at Park City Dance. Chopourskia recently retired from the Nevada Ballet and now lives in Park City. The Cavalier will be played by Barish Erhan, who currently is with the Nevada Ballet and is coming to Park City for a one-day performance.

"Coming to guest perform. He’s awesome," Flury said.

"Normally in our production of "The Nutcracker," it’s difficult to get male dancers," said Ryland, they get snatched up real quickly."

Erhan and Chopourskia received training through the Kirov Ballet and have excellent chemistry together. Because of Erhan’s and Chopourskia’s talents, Ryland said, Park City Dance is able to showcase ballet that is more technical and complex than in past shows, such as the adagio or pas de Deux.

"The main dancers are dancing a much more expanded role," Ryland said.

Professional dancers such as Erhan and Chopourskia have reached their level because of a lifelong dedication to dance.

"It’s a life’s work," Flury said. "Most of them start when they are 7 or 8."

Combining the professionals with Park City Dance creates a unique mix.

"They complement the amazing talent of our dancers," Flury said. "Our dancers are very well trained in ballet technique as well. We have a lot of highly demanding ballet roles that our students perform."

Park City Dance students are also benefiting from working with these dancers. They are able to see a goal of where they can be.

"Its’ been fantastic because Natalia is also on our staff," Ryland said. "She’s teaching the kids and they have a tremendous respect for her. As they watch her rehearse, they learn so much from her training. That synergy has been great for the kids."

Although Park City Dance is shortening their show from traditional "Nutcracker" performances, mostly the party scene, it is also providing more characters that won’t be seen in other Utah productions.

"There are some surprises," Flury said. "There will be dancing elephants, Raggedy Ann and Andy, the Spanish and Arabian and Chinese, and we have the big Mother Buffoon little surprises come out from under her skirt and dance."

"It brings new characters into production that you wouldn’t see," Ryland said. "It lends itself to a very good professional look. It’s a tremendous holiday show."

Park City Dance will perform its fourth-annual "The Nutcracker" Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. at The Eccles Center. Ticket prices range from $8-$20. For more information or tickets call 658-2345. Park City Dance will also show an abbreviated free show to all of the Park City School District elementary schools and Ecker Hill Middle School on Dec. 12 and 14.


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