The Nutcracker

Once upon a time in a place not far from this very spot there lived the ever-graceful Queen Kimberly and the beautiful Princess Magdalene.  Their kingdom wasn’t a rich land at all, but it was rich in graciousness and kindness, which the charming duo bestowed upon their subjects.  You see, my friends, theirs was a kingdom of dance and joy and openness.  And the people of the land truly did love the queen and the princess.  Actually, LOVE would certainly qualify as the understatement of understatements.  The people’s love for their queen and princess was greater than that of a stellar selfie. (Yep, it was just that good.)  Anyway, it was once again time for the kingdom’s annual Christmas party.  For a solid year, the queen’s dancers trained and practiced for this royal dance off.  The event was quite a celebration.  Cookies were nibbled, punch was drunk, stockings were emptied, songs were sung and, of course, dances were danced.  The dancers pirouetted and jete’d their little hearts out and turned their toes into little nubs, but it wasn’t long before all eyes were focused on one dancer. There’s always one that stands out above the herd, you know.  It’s just a fact of life that in checkers, quilting, animal husbandry, mad science, and dance there’s always one who shines above all others.  There will always be one who will work harder, have more focus, or just want it more. Whatever the reason, Clara was the star.  She was the epitome of grace and  beauty—and the best dancer in the joint.  From the way she held her hands to the way her chin never dipped below level, everything about Clara was oozing charisma and charm.  Straightaway, Princess Magdalene stood and yelled, “STOP!  We have a winner.”  Clara was summoned to stand before Queen Kimberly.  Clara’s face flushed red with excitement and she smiled as the queen presented her with the most beautiful nutcracker ever made.  But, sadly, not all in the room were happy with the queen’s choice.  Some were green with envy.  One dancer grew so jealous that he snatched the nutcracker from Clara, then many others joined in the most despicable game of keep-away the kingdom had ever seen.  Even the Sugar Plum Fairies joined in.  Clara felt like a child at an evil daycare.  The queen could do nothing but turn her head in disapproval. This sort of thing was not worth her attention—not in public anyway. Suddenly, without notice and out of nowhere, mice dressed in army uniforms burst into the ballroom.  Evil as all-get-out and thick as thieves—sporting cheap jewelry and reeking of old cheese, crust-worthy enough in fact to make even the foulest of evil mouse mothers run away in disgust. The mice were downright nasty. They were led by the king of all rats, the Mouse King.  Chaos ensued.  Dancers, mice, Clara, the nutcracker—all in a battle royal.   The smack down of smack downs.  Faces were scratched, fur was pulled, and dancers were choked out. Yup, it was dirty pool alright. Soon the Mouse King got the upper paw and had the Nutcracker Prince cornered with his blade ready to run him through.  No one is quite sure what happened next, as the madness was too great and terrifying to follow, but legend has it that Clara threw her slipper at the big fat rat. She hit him directly in the head so hard that the Nutcracker Prince was able to overcome the stunned dirty rotten Mouse King to claim his prize—which turned out to be his head.  They all danced happily ever after.  Each year, a group of dedicated individuals get together to perform The Nutcracker.  Headed up by the director of the Ballet Arts Center in Farmington, this small town dance group delivers a big city cast and big city performance.  We met up with Kim Anderson and her daughter Maggie to find out more about the Nutcracker. As Maggie’s mom, I am enjoying having my grown daughter work alongside me.  How we arrived here seems almost fleeting—just yesterday she was a little girl in beginning ballet under my tutelage.  Her first experience as a dancer in the Nutcracker Ballet was as a mouse.  Through the years, she earned stronger roles and performed the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy as a young adult.  Maggie had the opportunity to travel abroad to train and perform professionally.  She then returned home to Missouri to join me in the ballet studio.  Her life in the studio, as well as growing up with the Nutcracker Ballet, allows me the opportunity to work alongside the perfect assistant director for this production.Dance for me is literally an indefinable experience.  I often have this conversation with my students:  “Why are we here? What are we doing?”  You can’t articulate it, but the experience of dance is from the inside out; a dancer is meant to dance, driven by spirit and emotion.  Generation to generation, culture to culture, dance is an emotional and honest expression of the soul.  Those who don’t experience dance directly, through themselves, share in the experience as they sit in the audience breathing in the music and the movements of artists in performance.In this production, I am pleased and honored to work with a cast of children, dancers-in-training, and adult thespians whose love of the arts inspires them to commit to countless hours of rehearsals and challenges.  I am continuously touched and impressed with the emotional fortitude of my dancers who stand before me with good posture, look me directly in the eye, nod their head with intent, and press on when I am challenging them and demanding more and more.  This character leads to success, not just in the rehearsal studio, but in every life experience.  If their parents were only privy to see what I see of them in the rehearsal studio, they would be moved to tears.  As I mature, I find myself more and more humbled by the opportunity afforded me to work with such fine, ever-so-fine, artists.The Nutcracker Ballet is a wonderful opportunity for people who have little experience with classical ballet. The music and characters are very colorful and entertaining.  This season’s cast of over 180 is the largest we have experienced since our humble beginning in 1981. This production is supported by countless adults behind the scenes, most notably our wardrobe mistress who costumes this enormous cast of characters; the stage crew who transforms the Farmington Centene Center stage into a magical world; and the Board of Directors of this non-profit organization.  The community also helps to facilitate the enormous budget required to produce this show.  This is an organization and a production that southeast Missouri can be very proud to own.


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