Visions of sugar plums aren’t just dancing in the heads of Lincoln County children on the night of Christmas Eve this year, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, Clara and the rest of “The Nutcracker” dancers come together for a performance in Lincolnton this weekend.
Celebrating its fifth season, the children’s ballet is comprised of three groups of dancers from local studios, who will collaborate in telling the story of a magical nutcracker, as the show premieres tonight.
Cultural Center Executive Director Cathy Davis thought back to when she watched the performance as a child, and is reminded of the “magical powers” of the ballet when she sees the excitement of the children in the audience as the snow falls and the ballerinas move across the stage, she said.
“The music, the movement and the story are just a glimpse of childlike imagination and innocence that we all need to experience and revisit,” Davis said.
Friday and Saturday, the girls of Star Struck, Xtreme Edge and Expressions dance studios will tell the story of Clara and her encounters in the Land of Sweets and other elements of the classic performance.
With dancers ranging in everything from age to level of experience, the group of more than 100 ballerinas has been rehearsing at their studios over the last few weeks to bring to the production to life.
Assigning parts and putting dance routines together for the show has kept Stephanie Troutman of Star Struck very busy over the last few years. Adding little quirks to each version has kept the show constantly evolving, while staying true to the original.
“We have kids who have been doing it all five years,” Troutman told the Times-News last week. “It’s a little different each time; it’s great to see the kids grow and change over the years. Some kids were party guests in the beginning and now they have leading roles.”
The progression from a smaller role and starring in only a few numbers, to a leading lady was true of 10-year-old Carlee Starns, who portrays Clara. Starns first auditioned for a range of parts and was chosen as the protagonist of this year’s rendition — a role that makes her both nervous and excited, she said.
Involved with the production since it was rolled out five years ago, Starns has played a range of roles, such as a mouse and an angel; this is the first time she’s had a leading role in the area’s major fundraising event of the year for the Cultural Center.
Also a dancer who has been involved since the beginning, 14-year-old Matthew Innocenti, will portray Starns’ leading man as he takes on the role of the nutcracker. His second consecutive year as the wooden doll turned human, the 12-year dancer has also played Fritz, Clara’s brother, in previous years. Innocenti also takes tap, jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance lessons, when he isn’t focused on ballet.
Typically, dancers perform in the show until they graduate from high school, but occasionally someone will come back and dance in the production in the future.
Mulling over the idea of bringing the over-a-century-old show to the area, Shirley Smith of the county Chamber of Commerce and Kelly Barker, of Star Struck also the stage manager of the performance, decided it would be fun to try to get area residents excited about The Nutcracker. Hearing mixed reviews and doubt at first, the duo decided to proceed anyway and have been making the production happen ever since.
The ballet will come to life at 7 p.m. on Friday, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Citizens Center. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for seniors and students ages 12 and under.
For more information, call (704)732-9055.