The Nutcracker ballet is a holiday tradition, and enthusiasts have a choice: See an admittedly very good performance in Washington D.C. or drive to Fauquier High School where parking is free and abundant. For a fraction of the ticket cost, the whole family can enjoy the Christmas-time favorite right here in Fauquier.
What is it about the Nutcracker? For ballet schools, it affords students of all ages and levels of professionalism an opportunity to show off the technical prowess instilled by months and years of training. And it gives them a chance to gain experience at performing on stage before a large crowd. For audiences, it marks the beginning of the holiday season; it’s a Christmas ballet, with a growing Christmas tree, dancing dolls and toy soldiers, and white-tutued whirling snowflakes.
First performed in Russia in 1892, with a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the original production was not a success. Critics found the party scene insipid, complained about the rambunctious crowd of children and called the battle of the mice and toy soldiers “confusing.” The 20-minute suite extracted from the full-length ballet fared better and continued to be performed worldwide during the holiday season. (The complete version premiered at San Francisco Ballet and continued to be performed occasionally).
Then in 1954, the New York City Ballet, led by co-founder and ballet master George Balanchine, revamped and staged the complete ballet. Visually stunning and creatively choreographed, it was an instant hit, and since then has been a high point of the Christmas season.
The version on tap at Fauquier High features dancers trained by Warrenton’s Lasley Center for the Performing Arts faculty. The costumes are beautiful in concept and execution. The dancers, even the youngest, are impeccable.
These exceptionally trained local dance students share the stage with renowned international
stars of the ballet world. This year, Devon Teuscher and Cory Stearns, principal dancers of American
Ballet Theater in New York City, join the cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. (A principal dancer at ABT is as prestigious a position as one can hold in the highly competitive world of classical ballet).
This extraordinary experience for students and audiences is possible because of the work of The Centre
Performing Arts Company, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in Warrenton associated with the Lasley Centre for the Performing Arts. Performing this year are Maddy Bath as Clara, Abigail Bayes as the Naughty Mouse, Lindsay Johnson as the Snow Queen, Gemma Abdulwahab leading the Waltz of the Flowers, Isabella Mancini in the role of the Peacock and many other solos that are usually performed only by professional dancers. The pivotal role of the magician Drosselmyer is danced with zest and a hint of sinister menace by Lasley’s own ballet master, Mark Rubin, a former dancer at the famous Joffrey and Alvin Ailey ballet companies.
Founded in 2012, the Centre Performing Arts Company’s faculty members volunteered their time to help produce the Nutcracker. Its facilities are donated for rehearsals.
Open auditions were held at the end of August, and every week, young dancers practice diligently
until the curtain opens on Dec. 3.