Beaumont Civic Ballet presents The Nutcracker for 42nd year

Beaumont Civic Ballet presents The Nutcracker for 42nd year

Southeast Texans have enjoyed performances of The Nutcracker ballet by the Beaumont Civic Ballet for 42 years and will once again have the opportunity to view breathtaking dance and experience the fascinating story of young Clara’s adventure through the lands of snow and sweets in two separate performances Saturday, Dec. 14 and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2:30 p.m. at Julie Rogers Theatre in Beaumont.

Audiences will watch Clara, the Nutcracker, the Gingerbread Men and friends fend off the notorious Mouse King and his minions with thrilling special effects including a growing, lighted Christmas tree, cannon fire, and falling snow.   

Admission for children under 2 is free (on the lap) with prices for children older than 2 and adults varying based on seat location.  Tickets for reserved seating in Orchestra Rows Q - EE & Balcony Section A - E / Rows 4–12 are set at $15 per adult, $7.50 per senior citizen (55+) and child (age 3 up to college students with ID), and groups of 10 or more are $5 a piece (box office only). Tickets for Orchestra Rows A- P & Balcony Loge Sections A - E / Rows 1-3 are $10 per senior citizen (55+) and child (age 3 up to college students with ID) and $20 per adult.

With classical pieces written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, world-renowned 19th century Russian composer, and ballet performed by both male and female dancers of all ages, some as young as 6 years old, The Nutcracker promises to be an unforgettable experience for audiences, said Laurie Leister, board member of the Beaumont Civic Ballet for more than six years.

“It’s a classic Christmas story set to beautiful, classical music,” Leister said.

Classical music that includes the famous, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” an entrancing number set to the sounds of the celesta, a small keyboard instrument in which felted hammers strike a row of steel plates suspended over wooden resonators, giving an ethereal bell-like sound. Tchaikovsky’s choreographer, Marius Petipa, wanted the Sugar Plum Fairy’s music to sound like “drops of water shooting from a fountain”, and Tchaikovsky felt the celesta fit the job perfectly, David Brown writes in his book, Tchaikovsky: the final years.

From the dance perspective, Leister said the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” works so well for the ballet because it was written to be performed as a pas de deux, a dance for two people, typically a male and female.

“It is a longer piece of music than any of the others that Tchaikovsky wrote (for The Nutcracker),” she said.

“The Waltz of the Flowers,” is another popular piece from the ballet, so popular in fact that Disney used the song in its third-ever animated film, Fantasia.  The dance will be performed not only at The Nutcrackerballet Dec. 14 and 15, but also at a Dec. 8 Beaumont Civic Ballet performance at the Symphony of Southeast Texas’ “Home for the Holidays.”

Leister said her personal favorite, however, is “The Waltz of the Snowflakes,” which is performed at the end of Act I.

“In our production, we have snow falling and they use all of the senior girls in the company,” she said. “It is just beautiful. They are in these beautiful, blue dresses with a white and blue crystal look.”

The Nutcrackeris a professionally produced ballet featuring experienced and highly trained local dancers, added Beaumont Civic Ballet Associate Director  Monique Steinhagen, who has staged this year’s Nutcracker along with Ballet Mistress, Megan Anderson.

"We have many dancers who have studied for several summers in New York, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and with other professional ballet companies," Steinhagen said.

Besides exquisite dance, beautiful attire and captivating music, the ballet also offers fanciful characters in an unforgettable story set in 19th century Germany. 

“It’s about children and the holiday spirit and the mysticism of the season,” Leister said.

This mysticism begins with the arrival of the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer, the godfather of Clara, the protagonist of the story. Drosselmeyer frightens and captivates the children, offering magic tricks and toys including a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man, which all the children seem to ignore except Clara, who is intrigued by the figurine. After everyone goes to bed, Clara returns to the Christmas tree to view her favorite toy once again only to discover her godfather perched on top of the grandfather clock. The magician brings the nutcracker to life at the stroke of midnight along with a whole new world for Clara to explore including The Land of Snow, The Land of Sweets, gingerbread soldiers, tin soldiers and dolls, and the Mouse King and his army of mice which seek to feast on the gingerbread soldiers.

Just as E.T.A. Hoffmann, no doubt, put hours upon hours of his time into writing the The Nutcracker and the Mouse Kingnovella upon which the ballet is based, The Beaumont Civic Ballet dancers put hours of practice in as well each year preparing for their Julie Rogers Theatre performance.

“There’s rehearsal after rehearsal. They have been practicing since October for these roles and Beaumont Civic Ballet girls dance six days a week, an hour and a half a day … sometimes more. They’ve been dancing for most of their lives,” said Leister, adding that her two daughters — Katherine, 13 and Grace, 17 — have been dancing ballet since they were three and will be performing in the production. “To be able to rise up on their toes, pulling their bodies up, muscles lifting them up, against gravity. It’s really amazing how strong these girls are. They’re athletes.”

Speaking of athletes, audiences will have an opportunity to see several high school football players dance as well — including Dustin Burns from Westbrook High School, Armando Ledet from Monsignor Kelly High School and Porter and Tate LaPray, both from Vidor High School.

“They do ballet for strength building and flexibility in football,” Leister said.

Whether you watch the Nutcracker each year as a holiday tradition or even if this is your first time to see the production, Leister said it is an important Christmas experience for both young and old alike and that no other dance company does it quite as well as the Beaumont Civic Ballet.

“(Audiences) will be amazed by our sets … our costumes … the music and how well trained the dancers are,” Leister said. “Our Nutcracker performance is so much better because we have children performers” versus adults playing the parts of children, which Leister said is seen in other companies’ versions of the ballet.

This interesting aspect is something that children in the audience will most likely notice, as The Beaumont Civic Ballet presents their first two performances of the The Nutcracker to more than 3,000 Southeast Texas schoolchildren Friday, Dec. 13 at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. at Julie Rogers Theatre.

According to its website, Beaumont Civic Ballet membership is acquired through open audition each year and the ballet company’s growing repertoire includes such ballets as Coppelia, Graduation Ball, Les Sylphides, Peter and the Wolf, Pas de Quatre, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake - Act II, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Giselle, Prince Igor, La Fille Mal Gardee, Raymonda Variations, Sleeping Beauty - Act III, Arora’s Weddingand many original pieces staged by guest choreographers.

"I had a dream to bring dance to a higher level than just an annual recital," said Marsha Woody, who, in 1971, founded The Beaumont Civic Ballet, a non-profit organization only supported by grants and contributions, with hopes of bringing the art of dance to a higher level of appreciation.

Many hours are spent training and rehearsing for productions like The Nutcracker and the Beaumont Civic Ballet’s spring performance, “Spring into Dance,” scheduled for Saturday, March 22 at 2:30 p.m. and also at the Julie Rogers Theatre.

To purchase tickets call the Civic Center Box Office at (409) 838-3435, Ext. 1 or visit www.beaumontcivicballet.net.

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