Young dancers restage The Nutcracker ballet


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Angels, soldiers, and the always adorable sugarplum fairies will take the stage numerous times this weekend for a festive performance of The Nutcracker ballet. Put on by Coralville’s Nolte Academy of Dance, the holiday dance show will be held at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., with the first show starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday. 

Nolte and the Englert have partnered since 2006 for the event, and Andre Perry, the executive director of the Englert, says it is one of the biggest productions of the year and requires at least 200 people to produce, including dancers, Nolte production staff, and Englert staff.

“We’ve been partnering with Nolte Academy for a long time while doing The Nutcracker,” he said. “It’s this awesome community event that we’ve been doing for the past few years, because there’s so many kid dancers who are involved in the production.”

Nolte will put on five shows this weekend with kids ranging from ages 5 to 18.

“I’m not a dancer, and I was not a dancer when I was younger, but I can imagine it would have been really cool to be a part of something like this,” Perry said. “It’s really cool that they’re at that level. I think it says a lot about Leslie [Nolte] and the work they do over at the academy, which is really strong.”

Nolte’s dancers make the difficult choreography look simple with their beautiful extensions and intricate hand and arm movements. The young dancers looked dedicated as they rehearsed on Tuesday, exercising endurance and strength to get through the long dance numbers.

“Pointe shoes hurt my feet a lot,” said Mia Nolte, the daughter of studio owner Nolte, who will perform as a ballerina doll, snow flake, flower, and marzipan candy lead. “I get a lot of blisters, so I have to ice my feet occasionally, but I love just being here and performing.”

Jayme Braverman, a dewdrop fairy and senior dancer at Nolte, had a similar zeal for performance.

“One of my favorite parts is looking back on the years and seeing how much I’ve grown as a dancer and a person,” she said. “I love being able to tell my story and be a part of this production. It’s an amazing feeling to get up on stage where nothing fazes me. Nothing else comes to my mind; I live for that feeling.”

Essential to the ballet — apart from the dancers — is the orchestra. Carey Bostian, the conductor for The Nutcracker orchestra as well as a Iowa City Community Stream Orchestra and University of Iowa alum, said the annual ballet has come a long way from the early years, when recorded music was used.

“In about 12 years, Leslie [Nolte] has gotten a huge thing going,” Bostian said. “For those first couple years of The Nutcracker production, they couldn’t really cast anything, but then they got Grace Snider, their lead ballet teacher, to do the whole production. They called me and asked if I might be able to do something in their budget, and I said yes.”

Jean Rude, mother of Marisa Rude, the Mirliton and Chinese soloist, said she loves experiencing the performance and progression of the dancers.

“I love this production both for the music and the ballet,” she said. “My favorite week all year is sitting here during tech week, watching their rehearsal process, watching the orchestra play, and watching my daughter, of course.

“It’s a holiday tradition, so I love that aspect of it. My favorite part is just watching all of the dancers progress year to year. Some of these kids were little mice, and now they’re en pointe. It’s fun to watch that progression.”


Nolte Academy’s The Nutcracker
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 7, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7
Where: Englert, 221 E. Washington
Admission: $16-$28

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