A Holiday Classic

Clara and Drosselmeier in the party scene in MBT’s 2016 Nutcracker performance

Manassas Ballet Theatre presents the Nutcracker at the Hylton Performing Arts Center

Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the Snow Queen, and the Sugarplum Fairy help usher in the holidays with Manassas Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at the local Hylton Performing Arts Center. MBT’s Nutcracker is an unforgettable family classic performed by their in-house professional dancers, local students, and a live orchestra — all right here in our  own backyard.

“This is a thoroughly professional production on every level and element right here in backyard. Local residents don’t have to drive all the way to the the Kennedy Center for this caliber of performance,” said Amy Grant Wolfe, MBT’s artistic director.

Anchored by the professional dancers of MBT, Northern Virginia’s largest professional ballet company with 29 full-time dancers from around the globe, the dreamy story comes alive with the help of an ensemble cast of local student dancers of the Manassas Ballet Academy. MBT’s Nutcracker is the only  regional production which is performed to live music provided by the professional in-house musicians of Manassas Ballet Theatre Orchestra. The orchestra, along with exquisite costumes, dazzling custom scenery, and fresh choreography are the hallmarks of MBT’s portrayal of this holiday tradition.

Waltz of the Snowflakes, 2016 performance

“There are always spectacular new elements each year,” says Wolfe, who returned to leading the choreography for this year’s production. “As the company grows, so does our Nutcracker!”

This year, newly refreshed backdrops and a brand new hand-painted border (curtains along the top of the set in front of the stage lights and in the wings of the stage) will give the set more depth and make it even more magical. The themes and colors from the set are echoed in the costumes which are designed, maintained, and added to by in-house costume mistress Christina Brooks. “All our costumes are unique and custom-made,” says Wolfe. “They are not ordered online from companies that supply many studios with costumes.” The in-house lighting designer choreographs the light sequences that are unique to MBT’s Nutcracker.

The Manassas Ballet Academy’s students and company members are a big part of the production. The number of performances necessitates two dancers alternating in the coveted role of Clara. This year, the role is being played by local students Lexi Brooks, a high school senior, and Emma Rose Palladino, a high school junior. Lexi says, “I have watched Clara from the side of the stage for 10 years, so the feeling of doing it myself is dreamlike. I can’t wait to share it with the audience.”

Preparation for the Nutcracker takes most of the year. The professional dancers audition in January, and contracts for the year are awarded in the spring. Auditions for student dancer roles start in May, and they rehearse all summer for this holiday favorite. Choreography, set design, and costumes also begin in late spring. Once MBT’s fall performance ends, the professionals start rehearsing in earnest, and the show really starts to come together in November when the entire cast starts rehearsing together. There are all levels of students from Manassas Ballet Academy in the cast, from the very smallest who are cast in the rolls of toy makers, transition dolls, and mice, to the advanced students who dance in some corps scenes alongside the company dancers.

Toymakers, 2016

Manassas Ballet Academy’s older dancers are on the fast track to either professional dance careers or further study in college or abroad. By the time they are 12 years old, students are dancing 5-6 days per week — an exhausting schedule. Emma Rose, one of the local dancers portraying Clara, says, “I want to be a professional dancer, and that takes a tremendous amount of work. Every day I train is one day closer to achieving my goals. Nutcracker is special for me this year because I have an opportunity to be Clara, and it’s also my last Nutcracker before I leave to study ballet abroad.”

Opening night every year is started off with MBT’s Salute to the Military, a ceremony that celebrates and thanks all military members and branches for their service, featuring the Manassas Ballet Theatre Orchestra playing the National Anthem and the four service anthems as well as other forms of tribute.

So get into the holiday spirit with a visit to the Hylton Center for MBT’s Nutcracker, and marvel at the skills and dedication of our local professional dancers, local students, and the many other people behind the scenes who work together to putting this performance together. It is truly a professional performance in every way.

Manassas Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker

Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas

12 performances between December 14-23

Tickets start at $35 and are available at http://www.hyltoncenter.org

Pam Kamphuis
About Pam Kamphuis 95 Articles
Pam Kamphuis is an editor and writer for Piedmont Virginian Magazine and Piedmont Lifestyle Magazines.

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