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This Nutcracker ballet will have a superhero twist

A local ballet company is tapping into the superhero craze to make its Nutcracker character more engaging for contemporary audience members — especially boys.

"We wanted our Nutcracker to be almost like a superhero," says David Roxander of Medford's Studio Roxander Academy of Ballet. ""I wanted every little boy in the theater to say, 'I want to be that next Halloween.' It's always a struggle to get boys interested in ballet. Traditionally, the Nutcracker doesn't look very cool. I wanted this guy to look cool."

David Roxander and his son, Ashton Roxander — who plays the title role in the company's "The Nutcracker" ballet this month — used an Iron Man superhero mask as a base to create their own Nutcracker mask. Layers of foam rubber, glue and latex paint give it a more skin-like surface, compared to traditional wooden masks.

The Nutcracker's large eyes topped by fierce, curlicue eyebrows are inspired by Japanese anime animation.

Audiences can watch the Nutcracker come to life and do battle against the evil Mouse King at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13; 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20 and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21 in the Crater Performing Arts Center, 655 N. Third St., Central Point.

Tickets cost $14 to $20, $10 to $16 for seniors and children, and can be purchased at Studio Roxander Academy of Ballet, 101 E. 10th St., Medford, online at studioroxander.com, or by calling 541-773-7272.

Following the 1 p.m. matinee performances on Dec. 13, 14 and 20, audience members can visit the "Kingdom of Sweets" to get signed photographs of the performers. An additional $5 ticket is required.

David Roxander says superheroes have moved into the mainstream of American pop culture, especially with the proliferation of blockbuster movies starring such characters.

"I've been a superhero fan since I was six years old. I used to get comics at the 7-Eleven for 12 cents. In my day, people used to tease you about it," he says.

David Roxander says he hopes the superhero Nutcracker will appeal to boys who come to watch the classic ballet.

Performed since the 1890s, "The Nutcracker" tells the story of Clara, who is intrigued by a wooden nutcracker doll brought to her home on Christmas Eve by her godfather. At the stroke of midnight, the doll comes to life and must lead gingerbread soldiers against the Mouse King and his rodent minions.

The ballet will also feature plenty of magical dolls, snowflake flurries, visions of sugar plums and elaborate costumes to appeal to the audience's feminine side.

Elyse Roxander says a Mother Ginger character will have an enormous, eight-foot-diameter hoop skirt. Young ballet dancers dressed as gumdrops will emerge from the dress.

An Arabian princess will wear a new hand-jeweled costume that is both sensual and elegant, she says.

"We'll have a beautiful, newly choreographed piece with an Arabian princess. The music will be very unusual," Elyse Roxander says.

The company's performance of the "Nutcracker" ballet this year also will feature redesigned costumes for other characters and freshly choreographed dances, she says.

Ashton Roxander rehearses a scene for Studio Roxander's annual production of 'The Nutcracker' ó with a super hero theme. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch