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Nevada County ‘Nutcracker’ celebrates 10 years

Know & Go

WHO: Center Stage Dance Studio presents

WHAT: 10th anniversary Grass Valley/Nevada County Nutcracker

WHERE: Don Baggett Theatre, Nevada Union High School, 11761 Ridge Road, Grass Valley

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 20, VIP show 5:30, general show 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 21, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 22, 2 p.m.

TICKETS: Online advance tickets, $15 adults, $13 children (12 and under) and seniors (60 and older). At the door (if available), $17 adults, $15 children and seniors. VIP tickets (includes admission to the ballet) $20 all ages.

Online at http://www.centerstagegrassvalley.org and at the theater box office one hour before the show

INFO: 530-271-1200 or http://www.grassvalleynutcracker.com

Presenting Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic “Nutcracker Ballet” with a cast of 160 performers in 225 costumes is quite a production — especially when most of the cast is children.

Actually, the cast ranges in age from 4 to 64, said co-producer Santia Enos Kroes of Center Stage Dance Studio of Grass Valley

For the past 10 years, Center Stage has been presenting ever more ambitious productions of “The Nutcracker.” For instance, a few years ago, there were only 80 cast members.



For Center Stage, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, the holiday extravaganza is the biggest fundraiser of the year. “We sell out the matinees every year,” she said.

“We give away thousands of dollars in scholarships,” Kroes explained. “Every child interested in dance or theater should have the opportunity to explore this world.”




There will be four full performances of the ballet, starting Friday evening at the Don Baggett Theatre on the Nevada Union High School campus, which is the only local performance venue large enough to accommodate such an elaborate production.

Additionally, a special VIP show is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, prior to the 7 p.m. ballet. “The Sugarplum Dance and Dream … A Magical Event” is for little children to “schmooze and dance with the Sugarplum Faerie” and other characters onstage, said Kroes. VIP parents get preferred parking and seating for the main show.

And that’s not all. On Thursday (Dec. 19), about 1,000 elementary school children will be bused from all over the country to see two special, shortened performances.

“They’re our favorite audience. Our cast really enjoys performing for them,” Kroes said.

‘We’re hardcore’

Auditions took place in August. Rehearsals started in September and have been ongoing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday at the Center Stage studio at the Sierra Club in Grass Valley.

“We’re hardcore,” Kroes laughed.

There was, however, nothing “hardcore” in the atmosphere in the Don Baggett Theatre last Saturday when the entire cast and crew — all 160 of them, including Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller — assembled for the first time at the same time for a tech rehearsal at the theater.

While co-producer Wendy Fitzinger was up in the booth directing lights and sound, Kroes stage-managed her well-rehearsed troupe like a benevolent drill sergeant.

Since “The Nutcracker” is deliberately different each year, it’s taken students from six dance studios and eight choreographers to create this year’s version, she said.

Even though it’s always the same ballet, “We change the choreography every year,” confirmed dancer Cassidy Jones.

A senior at Nevada Union, she literally grew up with “The Nutcracker,” having been in every production since the beginning 10 years ago.

“The show is different every year,” agreed Todd Griffith, also an NU senior who will be performing in his ninth production.

2013 cast

Each year, performers are assigned different roles, and lead roles are traded off to give everybody a chance.

This year, Kroes reported the Sugarplum Faerie (and Dream Clara) will be played alternately by Trieste Erickson and Laura Columbel. Both girls have danced Sugarplum before, and this year, they agreed to share the role.

Other key performers include Steven Langley II as the Prince, Tadja Enos as the Mouse King and Nick Katzman as the Nutcracker and Cavalier.

Grass Valley Mayor Miller will make a cameo appearance as Mother Ginger.

“He’s so cute,” Kroes said. “He’s just a lot of fun. He’s really good with the kids.”

A family affair

The community of people who put on this yearly extravaganza frequently refers to itself as a “family,” which is both literally and figuratively true. It takes many parent volunteers who make this possible, explained Kroes, who started out as a parent volunteer herself 10 years ago.

She took over as co-producer seven years ago and is now the managing director of the board of Center Stage. Likewise, co-producer Wendy Fitzinger came in as a parent volunteer and joined Center Stage as business director. She has co-produced “The Nutcracker” with Kroes for the last five years.

Practically everybody involved in the production plays multiple roles. Among their other duties, Kroes and Fitzinger also contributed to the choreography.

Unlike many stage productions with distinct crews for sets, costumes, props, etc., Kroes says it’s a group effort with experienced parent and family volunteers filling in as needed.

Even though they’ll be away at college and unable to rehearse for next year’s production, both Jones and Griffith vowed they’d come back next year just to watch.

“It’s like a family. We all love each other so much,” Jones said

And Griffith said, “It’s kind of a holiday tradition with me.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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