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The Nutcracker: A ballet review

Audiences of all ages enjoyed a delicious treat this weekend as the Caruso Youth Ballet Company staged three performances of its sixth annual production of “The Nutcracker” at Knights of Columbus Hall in Picayune. Directed and choreographed by Regina Caruso Hansen, and ever-growing each year, the local show is slowly emerging as a not-to-be missed holiday hit.

Those that have seen past productions by the same company, will probably agree that Hansen’s creativity is evolving while her dancers are maturing. From last year to this year alone, the toes are more pointed, the leaps and lifts are higher, the acting is getting more technical, and the smiles are getting brighter.

“The Nutcracker” is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. However, when Marius Petipa conceived and choreographed the original ballet, the story he most closely mirrored was a revision of Hoffman’s story written by a well known French author, Alexander Dumas. It was Dumas’ version of the story that has become the classical ballet audiences now know and love as “The Nutcracker.”

The music was composed in 1892 by Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and, even if one is not familiar with the story, or has never seen the ballet, it is virtually impossible to go anywhere, or turn on the television, during the holiday season without hearing music from the score. Tchaikovsky’s score has essentially become the “sounds of Christmas.”

The basic plot is the story of a young, German girl, Clara, who dreams of a nutcracker prince going to battle with the mouse king. The ballet opens with a party scene where Clara receives a nutcracker as a gift from her godfather (in the Hansen version, it’s an aunt) that quickly becomes the hit of the party. Her brother Fritz also receives a nice gift from his godfather, but when he sees the excitement surrounding Clara’s gift, Fritz quickly becomes jealous and breaks the nutcracker. Once all the guests have departed for the evening and her family retires to bed, Clara, who is heartbroken, sneaks back to the tree to check on her nutcracker. She eventually falls asleep with him in her arms. As the clock strikes midnight, Clara begins to experience strange and magical things as all the toys around the tree come to life and some colorful characters begin to enter the scene.

Taking in the local production from one year to the next offers the viewer a unique perspective. It is intriguing to see how some dancers have grown, and how different ballerinas interpret the same role.

The Caruso Youth Ballet Company dancers deserve tremendous praise — from the littlest ballerinas to its more seasoned dancers. While the different skill levels were apparent, the level of professionalism in everyone was endearing — they clearly gave it their all. The massive cast included: Selma Haxeyen, Elliot Hey, Tiffani Brewer, Madeline Schram, Abby Farmer, Morgan Rome, Aria Golbitz, Caleb Dearmin, Joshua Hansen, Rebekah Dearmin, Karra Brewer, Emily Mayer, Kimmie Hey, Samantha English, Kaylie Poe, Katelyn Casey, Katie Farmer, Hanna Penton, Tabitha Brewer, Helena Hansen, Brett Barnes, Gabbi Adams, Samantha English, Emily Fleming, Emily Denney and Taletha Odem.

For her tireless energy in staging this gargantuan show, Regina Hansen is to be commended for all of her efforts. It is clearly important to her, that young dancers whet their appetites with the classics. She will be holding auditions for her upcoming production of another ballet classic, “Swan Lake,” in January.