This past Thursday evening, I attended the dress rehearsal of the 18th annual performance of The Nutcracker by the Centennial State Ballet. Under the supervision of Executive Artistic Director, Kristen Kingsley, the classic tale of Clara and her dream of a Nutcracker King came to life in a lively and joyous dance performance.
The lights came up on the opening scene of a holiday party, festive with guests and dancers dressed in simple but sumptuous attire. Every costume was lovingly hand-sewn by seamstresses and volunteers right up until (and during) the dress rehearsal.
Many dancers fulfilled multiple roles in the show, and some had up to six costume changes per evening. In combination with the whimsical, hand-painted backdrops which are a staple of the company and have been used in their every performance of The Nutcracker. The stage was literally set for a night of talented ballet performances.
The chamber orchestra, comprised of talented Colorado musicians, hand-picked from all over the Front Range and assembled by Musical Director, Dr. Rick Thomas, played rich and masterful accompaniment to the story unfolding on the stage. The harpist was the only one visible, sitting outside the orchestra pit with her stately instrument. I was later told by Heidi Lawrence, Marketing Director for the Centennial State Ballet, that the lion’s share of the budget for this production went into securing these talented artists, and the score was flawlessly performed. A rich investment with a powerful result.
Crucial to the performance of course are the dancers, all of whom have been trained at the Longmont Dance Theatre Academy, the official training ground for Centennial State Ballet dancers. The Longmont Dance Theatre Academy has been in Longmont since 1998 and is proud to have been the premier pre-professional ballet school from which dancers are selected. Some performers in The Nutcracker have been cast since they were 5, many staying in the company until high school. The rest of the cast, such as the adult party-goers and a few other non-dancing roles, are filled in by volunteer family-members. With the atmosphere being of a tight-knit group working hard since September toward this common aim, the production is truly a family affair.
This year’s production budget was $50,000. Almost 60% of that budget came from donations alone, with only 40% coming from ticket sales. A healthier budget would enable them to bolster their productions in myriad ways. Ms. Lawrence says that the biggest challenge they face is simply getting people in the door. “There seems to be a stigma associated with performing at a high school auditorium instead of a larger performing arts center.”
A future goal of the company is to market and reach out to organizations and business entities for donations to support the ballet company. States Lawrence, “We need someone who has a heart for the arts.” She referenced the Longmont Performing Arts Initiative, of which the Centennial State Ballet is a member, that is a group of nonprofit organizations involved with the advocacy and support of the performing arts. They believe in the need for a strong performing arts presence that provides entertainment and service to the community.
It is my wholehearted recommendation for one and all to see this moving performance and to support these local artists, dancers and musicians in their endeavors. Performances this weekend are held at Niwot High School, 8989 Niwot Road, Niwot, CO 80503. Friday, December 22 at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, December 22 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 p.m.
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