Christmas magic with play out on stage this Saturday and Sunday with Studio A Dance Conservatory’s fourth annual ballet, “The Tale of the Nutcracker” presented in the Heckart Performing Arts Center at Smith-Cotton High School. Such a magical performance would not be possible without long hours of practice, production work and set building.
The is the year, over 55 students will be participating in the production that is featuring all new cast members and one new dance number. Backstage, eight-to-10 people help out along with mothers of the dance students.
“We have boys coming from Sacred Heart School that have volunteered and boys from a baseball team that we are helping to sponsor,” Anna Crumley Nelson, studio owner and production director, said. “… They are in the show for the party scene. That’s a new number.”
Crumley Nelson said that since the boys from the baseball team volunteered to help with the studio production they are sponsoring them with a silent auction during the event.
“It’s a local team,” she added. “Some of my students’ brothers are on it. So we are helping them earn money.”
She added that the girls who auditioned this year all have new parts. Before the production begins Crumley Nelson will have a number of her pre-professional students perform for the audience.
“We are going to do an opening number which is my company,” she noted. “That is 42 of my most elite students. I have a couple singers also singing to start out the show. They’ll sing ‘All I want for Christmas is You.’ That’s kind of an upbeat jazzy number.
“They are all in the show too,” she added. “Immediately, when they get done with that number, they’ll go back and get ready for the ‘Nutcracker.’”
During the performance there are many colorful costume changes. Most of the wardrobe is also new this year. Crumley Nelson works with Kim Windle, owner of K.mae Designs in Sedalia, to create the costumes.
“Kim is my costume lady and she and I work together all the time, even late hours into the night,” Crumley Nelson said. “Her daughter is in the show, so she’s really joined the team.”
Crumley Nelson’s favorite part of producing the “Nutcracker” is because “it’s for anyone.”
“Young, old, anyone in the community can come and be entertained,” she added. “Our end-of-the-year showcase is all dance, but this one we’re adding culture, we’re adding music. It’s the story, it’s the whole thing.”
She said many times people may not understand a dance-only routine, but most everyone is familiar with the “Nutcracker.”
“They can truly understand it, and it’s a story that they can get wrapped up into like a Broadway production or a movie,” she said.
Students have been practicing since August. The youngest performer is 3 and the oldest 18.
“We have (former) students coming back to help backstage,” Crumley Nelson said. “So, it’s real team work. I call our studio the ‘A Team.’ I call on everybody, and It’s amazing how many people want to help make this a success.
“This show is like my child,” she added. “I really take a lot of time to plan it and mentally cast it. It’s really hard to cast a show, but I try to cast each part perfectly. I change the moves to fit that student, and I really think about the story and who’s doing the voice-over.
“It’s all important to me, even when I was doing the playbill,” she said. “It’s Clara’s imagination, all of this. She’s dreaming about this. So, I really wanted that clear this year through the dancing, through the playbill, through advertising and video.”
Crumley Nelson’s film director, Josh Pfaff, a film major at Missouri State University in Springfield, will show a “little teaser” before the production begins and also film the show as the students perform this weekend.
“He’s been filming last week and this week and you’ll see it play before the show,” she added. “He’s exceptional, he’s a big part of our team.”
Crumley Nelson’s father Keith Crumley has been instrumental in creating all the props for the production.
“He’s built all of the set,” she said. “He built the Christmas tree and sleigh, the cannon, Mother Ginger — he’s built everything. He quite the designer. We sit down and sketch it out and talk out what I need. He’s pretty phenomenal.”
Being skilled in ballet was the driving force behind her decision to present the “Nutcracker” four years ago.
“Ballet is the fundamental of dance,” she said. “I believe its the most important art form there is. I wanted two shows, one for the fall and one for Christmas time … I didn’t want to do a concert piece, and ‘Nutcracker’ is the traditional Christmastime show that ballet companies perform around the world. So, I thought well why can’t we do this?
“The ‘Nutcracker’ can be kind of scary and long,” she added. “So, what I did was a twist. I did just excerpts of my favorite pieces from the show, they other dances we don’t do. We tell them with a storybook, that way it’s full energy. I have a minimal cast. In Kansas City or big cities they have casts of over 200. We have a little cast … and I make it as professional as I can. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of work.”
Crumley Nelson said she’s excited about the show and she hopes people in the community will come out to see the production this weekend.
“This year I feel more at peace about it,” she added.
Christina Stratton will play the Sugar Plum Fairy, Chloe Buckley will portray Clara, Gabbie Sproles will dance as the Snow Queen and Jack Leonard with perform as Uncle Drosselmeyer.
Studio A Dance Conservatory’s “The Tale of the Nutcracker” will be presented in the Heckart Performing Arts Center at Smith-Cotton High School at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10. They can be purchased ahead of time at http://www.sadanceconservatory.com/ or purchased at the door.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.