This year, Medford Civic Ballet brings back the advanced and beautiful, grand "pas de deux" in its production of the enduring Christmas classic "The Nutcracker."
For the past three years, the company has performed an abridged version of the ballet, as it did not have dancers skilled enough to meet the technical and athletic demands of the duet. But this year, it has Paige Suste, 26, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Tanner Elliott, 21, as her cavalier.
The dance is five minutes of elaborate choreography that includes lifts, catches, throws, turns, pirouettes and balancing, director Mary Cowden Synder says.
"It's not just stunts," she says. "It has to be artistically expressive, and you need dancers with strong musical sensitivity."
MCB has been performing "The Nutcracker" since 1982 and will present the full-length ballet, featuring 100 of its dancers, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale, Medford.
"The Nutcracker" is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's magical story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." The ballet with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and music by Tchaikovsky premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has since become a holiday sensation.
Snyder choreographed many of the scenes for MCB's show, including the Russian, Arabian and Spanish dances and the finale, but plans to use Petipa's original choreography for the Sugar Plum Fairy variation, Ivanov's choreography for the snow dance and Lew Christensen's (San Francisco Ballet) choreography for "Waltz of the Flowers."
Elliott and Josh Bokish, who plays the nutcracker prince, arranged the fight scenes.
While the choreography may be fresh, the story is the same. Drosselmeyer gives his young goddaughter, Clara, a nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. Later, Clara, like the audience, leaves a Victorian reality and is swept into a fanciful, wintry realm. Mice battle soldiers. Snowflakes and flowers dance, and the nutcracker doll, now a handsome prince, travels with Clara to a delectable kingdom, where they meet the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and her dashing cavalier.
Like the San Francisco Ballet, Snyder created an art deco-style set with huge swathes of semisheer fabric, large bows and ribbons.
The costumes are whimsical and elegant. There are six-layer tutus with hand-cut snowflakes and silver crowns for the snowflakes, brown tutus and leotards with marshmallow accessories for the Spanish hot-chocolate dance and recycled wedding dresses and tail coats for the Victorian party scene. As in years past, the nutcracker will wear a papier-mache mask that Snyder made in 1975.
Reserved seating costs $15 and is available at Dance Arts Center, 9 Hawthorne St., Medford. Tickets will cost $10, $5 for children, at the door. Call 541-772-1362 for details.
Medford's Studio Roxander also will present its annual "The Nutcracker," at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22. (After selling out the past two years, the studio added two more performances to the 2012 schedule.)
This year, the studio "got pretty aggressive" and created a new sleigh, new snow-scene set and new soldier, party-scene and snowflake costumes, and added the Mother Gigogne scene, says David "Rocky" Roxander, who is co-directing the production with his wife, Elyse.
The cast also grew from 50 to 64 dancers, ages 6 to 29, so the Roxanders began renting a second studio space two doors down on Court Street and rechoreographed several of the scenes to accommodate the number of dancers and a more advanced skill set.
"As the school grows, the production has to reflect that and grow with it," David Roxander says.
"I think you'll see a caliber of amateur dancers that you're not going to see very many places."
Reserved seating costs $14, $16 and $20, or $10, $12 and $16 for seniors and students. Tickets are available at www.studioroxander.com, the studio box office, 1221 Court St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-7272.