As Center Stage dance studio prepares to bring its largest production yet of “The Nutcracker” back to the stage for Nevada County audiences this weekend, the magic of the classic holiday ballet was written on the faces of its young participants.
During a Tuesday dress rehearsal, little girls and boys dressed in colorful costumes bounced around the stage with smiles so big, they lit their faces from within. Veteran dancers waited patiently in the seats for their time to shine as co-directors Santia Enos Kroes and Wendy Fritzinger expertly coordinated children, parents and volunteers through the practice and costume questions. This is their fourth year producing “The Nutcracker” together and their largest show to date. The cast will feature 160 dancers, ranging in age from 4 to 70-something.
Enos Kroes has been a part of the local “Nutcracker” performances since they began. The production originated at The Center for the Arts, then moved after three years to another local dance company. When that dance studio closed, Enos Kroes and Fritzinger — instructors with the studio — created the nonprofit Center Stage organization because it was important to them to keep “The Nutcracker” performances going in Nevada County. They built up the organization since then to include 15 board members and, now, its largest production to date.
“As a studio, we love what we do. Having a holiday ballet really is the keystroke to a successful studio,” Enos Kroes said.
Proceeds from the annual production of “The Nutcracker” typically fill Center Stage’s scholarship fund for dancers.
Although the show encompasses a wide range of ages and experience levels, Enos Kroes and Fritzinger work hard to make sure it is a quality production and take pride in what comes across on stage. That includes their choice of venue — the Don Baggett Theater at Nevada Union High School. It’s the most professionally sized theater in the county, complete with lighting, sound, adequate space in the “wings” of the stage and great sight lines for the audience.
It’s their level of professionalism that attracted Karen Attix, a retired professional dancer, to Center Stage. The Nevada County resident is continually impressed with what the children learn through their “Nutcracker” experience, including music, stage spacing, discipline and teamwork, she said.
As Attix — a Center Stage board member — watched little girls run around the stage Tuesday, she explained her connection to the production is very personal. She was first attracted to dance as a little girl after seeing the ballet performed live.
For parent Kim Culbertson, Center Stage’s commitment to the production really shines through. This will be daughter Anabella’s third production.
“(Center Stage) really focuses on growing a child’s love of the arts through not only dance training but also a wider love of the artistic experience and the supportive community this experience creates among the performers of all ages,” Culbertson said.
Dancers audition in August for “The Nutcracker.” The cast has been rehearsing every Saturday for the past three months. Enos Kroes admits it is a big commitment for families, but it’s also a big show, she said.
“The hours spent for this is just phenomenal, and I love to make this a fun experience for families,” she added.
Both co-directors said the production wouldn’t be possible without the great support from families and volunteers. That includes artistic director Nick Katzman and choreographers Hollie McGovern, Stephanie Andrews, Trieste Erickson and Sage Hoban. Enos Kroes and Fritzinger also choreographed dances for this production.
This year, in addition to the large cast size, they are excited to introduce a Sugar Plum Tea.
“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a number of years,” Enos Kroes said.
The tea, happening at 11 a.m. Saturday, will introduce young children to the complex story of the ballet through some of its popular characters, including the Sugar Plum Fairy, Dream Clara, Little Clara and more. Tickets for the Sugar Plum Tea are $25 and include the tea, treats and admission to the matinee performance at 2 p.m.
In all there will be six performances of “The Nutcracker” for one weekend only. Two shows are for local school students with public performances at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and a second matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets for “The Nutcracker” are $15 in advance, $17 at the door for adults, $13 in advance or $15 at the door for children and seniors. Tickets are available at BriarPatch Co-op and online at www.grassvalleynutcracker.org. For information, call Center Stage Dance Studio at (530) 271-1200.
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.