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Medford dance troupes bring 'The Nutcracker' to life

The Rogue Valley will be rich with sugar plum fairies as two local dance companies — Studio Roxander and Medford Civic Ballet — each put their own spin on the holiday ballet “The Nutcracker.”

For generations, composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s lively score and the classic Christmas story of a young girl and her adventures with a nutcracker-turned-prince have charmed audiences of all ages.

“There’s a magic to seeing the 'Nutcracker' on stage,” says Medford Civic Ballet artistic director Mary Cowden Snyder. “We know each year might be the first time for some people, and we always want it to be special.”

Medford Civic Ballet's performance will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, in the auditorium at North Medford High School, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats, $10 for general and $6 for children. Tickets can be purchased at Medford Dance Arts Center, 9 Hawthorne St., Medford Travel Center, 1314 Center Drive, Kid Time! 106 N. Central Ave., by calling 541-773-1362 or at the door. See www.medforddanceartscenter.com.

Studio Roxander’s production will be presented at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, at Crater High School's Performing Arts Center, 655 N. Third St., Central Point. Performances will follow at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. Performances are held at the Crater Performing Arts Center at 655 N. Third St., Central Point. Tickets are $20, $16 or $14, and $16, $12 or $10 for seniors and children. Tickets are available at the studio's box office, 101 E. 10th St., Medford, or online at www.studioroxander.com.

Snyder says that while Medford Civic Ballet offers a traditional production, some parts have changed over time, and that each year's production is a big effort.

“We’ve added some contemporary lifts, and the 'Waltz of the Flowers' scene is inspired by the choreography and costumes in the San Francisco Ballet,” she says. “It takes a lot of time, cooperation and help from a lot of people.” We have new set pieces, Habitat for Humanity is loaning us furniture, and we have donated wedding gowns that we dyed various colors for the party scene.”

The Medford Civic Ballet features a cast of nearly 100 people, ranging in age from 5 to 56 years old, and it has been producing “The Nutcracker” in the valley since 1982.

“Each year is unique in some way,” Cowden says. “A number of the older girls this year have been dancing with me since they were 3 and 4 years old, and there is so much talent and joy on the stage. It’s a beautiful, family-friendly production.”

Studio Roxander’s “Nutcracker” runs for two weekends and offers new twists in its production, as well, including a snow castle inspired by the movie “Frozen.”

“We’ve added the 'Waltz of the Flowers' to our show and given Clara, the young girl who gets the Nutcracker, a more active role,” says Elyse Roxander, co-director of Studio Roxander. “We have a great group of young dancers, as well as some pretty amazing little ones.”

For an additional $10 ticket, following matinee performances on Dec. 12, 13 and 19, a child and adult chaperone may go onstage to the Kingdom of Sweets and get a photograph and autograph from the sugar plum fairy, Clara, the Nutcracker and several other stars of the show.

“I love watching the children meet their favorite characters,” Roxander says. “It’s fabulous seeing how excited they are.”

Roxander adds there is a lot to love about this production.

“I’m thrilled by this whole event,” she says. “I love the snow scene, the music, the costumes and our little reindeer. There is so much energy in the entire show, and the dancers are fantastic.”

The cast of 90 people includes 79 dancers ranging in age from 5 to 22. Roxander says she hopes the audience will leave the show with a healthy dose of holiday cheer as well as an appreciation of the athleticism and hard work involved in the art of ballet.

“I hope people see the strength and athleticism of these young dancers and say, ‘that’s amazing. I want to see more of that.’ ”

Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at decker4@gmail.com

Paris Wimberly, left, plays Clara, and Erik Osberg plays the nutcracker-turned-prince in Medford Civic Ballet's production of 'The Nutcracker.' Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch