Nutcracker comes to the Englert


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A 32-foot Christmas tree covered in ornaments towers over a group of children dressed as sugar-plum fairies in handmade ballet costumes of lace, silk, and full tutus. The students gracefully twirl and leap across the stage with excitement about their upcoming performance of The Nutcracker.

"It's amazing to watch each year how this show progresses from where it starts in August to what you see on stage," said Leslie Nolte, the founder of the Nolte Academy of Dance, 1801 Second St., Coralville, and a coproducer of the ballet with the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. "The dancers' abilities to learn and willingness to work is what makes this show special; their commitment is what makes this magical."

The famous holiday classic will open for its sixth year at the Englert at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Additional shows will occur at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Dec. 5. Admission is $16 for children ages 12 and under, $18 for students and seniors, and $22 for other adults.

The Nutcracker is a two-part ballet based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" ("Nussknacker und Mausek├Ânig"), by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The show focuses on Clara, a young German girl, and her dream of a Nutcracker Prince and a fight with the Mouse King. The play traditionally features many roles for children.

Seventy local performers, ages 6 to mid-60, will dance in the classic ballet, many of them from the Nolte Academy, which first produced the show in 2004. Nolte said there are some new elements in this year's production, which include new costumes for the cast and the 32-foot Christmas tree.

"Our goal is to improve the show each year," she said. "With the new costumes, production elements, and overall talent level of our performers, we are very excited about our audiences experiencing this show."

Nancy Kula, the development director for the Englert, said the generous aid from the sponsors, which include Target and Hills Bank & Trust, demonstrates the giving spirit of the local community.

"The Englert Theatre and the Nolte Academy of Dance work together to make this the best possible production it can be," she said. "We are really fortunate to be in a community that is so willing to contribute to an event such as this."

Nolte said the help from local companies allows her to produce a high-quality show.

"This becomes more of a community effort each year, which allows us to make this a truly professional production," she said.

The performance also showcases a live orchestra of 30 local artists conducted by Carey Bostian, who assembled the musicians. The orchestra adds to the professional experience, Nolte said.

"The goal was always to give the students a true experience of performing in a professional ballet, to be able to dance with a live orchestra, full costuming, and sets and props," she said. "I believe we have absolutely given them that."

The dancers train for 12 weeks at the Nolte Academy, then have one week to practice at the Englert with the orchestra and other performers.

Kula said the ballet gives new artists and dancers an opportunity to perform with more experienced people.

"Not only is this production of The Nutcracker a lovely annual tradition, it is a great opportunity for artists in training to work with professionals," she said.

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