One of the area's favorite holiday traditions, The Nutcracker Ballet, will be presented for the 12th year in a row by Expressions, the Dance Company, on Dec. 12 and 14 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge.
It's an extravaganza of colorful costumes, dramatic backdrops, graceful dancers, moments of comedy, lots of action, and a good story, all set to the music of 19th century Russian composer Pytor Tchaikovsky.
"Our lead (dancers) will be professionals Diana Diaz, as Sugar Plum Fairy, and Eriberto Jimenez as her Cavalier," said Gillian Davis, who founded the Pasco County-based troupe a dozen years ago with the main purpose of presenting the beloved ballet to area audiences.
Ms. Diaz is a featured performer with Miami Contemporary Dance Company; Jimenez is a principal dancer for Miami Hispanic Ballet.
The rest of the 70-member cast are students of several area dance studios, with their parents and other interested adults in the roles of grownups.
The ballet tells the story of young Clara, who receives a wooden nutcracker shaped like a toy soldier at the family Christmas party. Her jealous brother Fritz breaks the nutcracker, but it is repaired by their mysterious Great-Uncle Drosselmeier.
When everyone goes to sleep after the party, Clara sneaks back downstairs to fetch her new toy and is set upon by a fearsome Rat King and a swarm of tiny mice.
The Nutcracker and Clara battle the Rat King. When they best him, the Nutcracker is turned into a handsome prince, whereupon he and Clara are whisked away into a dream world, where they are entertained and given gifts by dancers from around the world — Spain, China and Arabia — as well as Candy Canes and the huge Mother Ginger and her little Polichinelles.
A special treat is a visit by the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, who dance a graceful pas de deux.
This year, Clara is portrayed by three different 11-year-old dancers, one in each of the three performances (a special school performance is already sold out): Madison Russ, Cassidy McKenna and Samantha Mailhot.
Madison's sister, Taylor, is a featured dancer in the Waltz of the Flowers.
The ballet is about 90 minutes long and is suitable for well-behaved audiences age 5 and older.