The Nutcracker performances of long ago all blur and mix in memory; the new and the old become as one in this year's rendition from Ballet Arkansas.
The holiday show will feature new choreography and the introduction of a new character while holding true to the time-honored traditions, says Catherine Fothergill, Ballet Arkansas' associate artistic director.
Ballet Arkansas presents The Nutcracker
7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway, Little Rock
Fothergill and her husband, Michael Fothergill, joined the ballet company in July after dancing professionally at the Alabama Ballet.
"We really hit the ground running and made a good many changes including to The Nutcracker," Catherine Fothergill says.
The dancers come from across the state, including at least 20 dance schools and more than 100 academic institutions, she says.
"They bring their own life experiences to the table, which makes our performance really special."
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra -- with associate conductor Geoffrey Robson on the podium -- will accompany. The orchestra will have 43 musicians.
"We are very proud to have them as a part of the production," she says. "Live music is an important part of the piece."
Michael Fothergill has reworked much of the choreography for the performance, including the snow scene in Act II. He has been choreographing since 2005, according to his biography page on the Ballet Arkansas website.
The snow scene is inspired by a blizzard, Catherine Fothergill says.
"It has elements of grace and beauty, but also the craziness of a snow storm," she says.
The Nutcracker Prince is another change to this year's show -- the audience will watch him on his journey from meeting Clara in Act I to his fight with the Mouse King in Act II.
Many of the company and 200-member community cast will also be sporting new costumes; Fothergill says several of the outfits had gotten too old and have been replaced.
These changes are a part of a three-year plan to revamp the performance. Plans for future shows include a revised first act, new costumes and refinished sets, Fothergill says.
The goal is to add "touches here and there" that will make the ballet a new experience for Arkansans who attend every year, while maintaining some of the traditions and the community cast, Fothergill says.
The Nutcracker is usually one of the best-attended performances of the year for the ballet, Fothergill says. A Saturday matinee is a new addition that is meant to be more convenient for families with children.
The "Land of the Sweets Nutcracker Tea" is at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Robinson Center stage, and the Sugar Plum Fairy and other cast members will give special performances. Tickets are $30 plus taxes and fees online (tinyurl.com/teanutcracker) or can be bought at the Robinson Center box office during earlier ballet performances.
Weekend on 12/07/2017