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Nutcracker Ballet, a Billings Symphony Holiday Tradition

The Nutcracker ballet billings symphony

The Nutcracker Ballet is a classic story nearly synonymous with Christmas. Young Clara receives a nutcracker on Christmas Eve, and her dreams take flight with sugarplum fairies, dancing snowflakes, and an epic battle against a rat king.

The Billings Symphony and San Diego Ballet Company continue this nostalgic holiday tradition, bringing to life The Nutcracker Ballet in two performances on Saturday, Nov. 26, and one on Sunday, Nov. 27.

Buy tickets to The Nutcracker Ballet >

The Nutcracker Ballet is a true community effort. The San Diego Ballet is providing 22 professional dancers, who will join about 90 local dancers from ages 6 to 16. Billings Symphony Conductor Anne Harrigan will lead the orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s magical score, and while everyone is excited to take the stage, perhaps no one looks forward to the performance more than the young dancers.

“The kids get so excited,” said Betty Loos, co-founder of the School of Classical Ballet in Billings. “They look forward to The Nutcracker all year.”

By the time the curtain goes up on the first act, local dancers and their teachers will have put in hundreds of hours of practice and preparations. They’ve been rehearsing since mid-September. The littlest dancers will play the roles of sugar babies, baby dolls, and little rats. Older dancers can earn roles in the Chinese or Mirliton scenes, and, of course, Clara is a coveted role performed by local dancers.

Typically, each role is double or triple-cast, so each child will not have to dance in every performance. However, this year, auditions were light, and not every role is double cast, Loos said. Most dancers will perform in at least two shows.

The San Diego Ballet Company arrives for preparations on the Wednesday before the Saturday and Sunday performances. The first dress rehearsal will be on Friday, and San Diego Ballet provides the costumes. When the children don their costumes for the first time, reality sets in, and the magic begins, said Julia Marble Blass, Executive Director of the Montana Dance Company in Billings. She and Loos collaborate in preparing the young dancers for the performance and keeping things rolling behind the scenes during the performance. Parent volunteers also play an important role.

“There’s a lot happening,” Marble Blass added. “It’s a tremendous experience for children to learn to adapt in these situations.”

The San Diego Ballet relies on local talent for a successful show and has been coming to Billings to stage The Nutcracker for many years. The professional dancers welcome the opportunity to work with the young cast and their instructors.
“We couldn’t do it without these dedicated professionals,” said San Diego Ballet Executive Director Matt Carney. “It really is a team effort.”

The musicians in the symphony and their conductor are among those professionals, and Carney said that it’s not commonplace to stage The Nutcracker with a live orchestra. Often, they dance to a recording.

“To dance to live music is special and to collaborate with the Billings Symphony and bring the Nutcracker to life is a true honor,” Carney added.

The Nutcracker Ballet is for all ages, and performances will be held Saturday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and again on Sunday, Nov. 27, at 2 p.m.

Buy your tickets and choose your seats for this special performance today.

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