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Celebrate ‘The Nutcracker’ Tradition

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Now that stomachs are full, Black Friday shopping has ended and thousands of pounds of turkey have been sold, it’s the time of year to truly appreciate our loved ones through rich traditions. Maybe your family cherishes the moment the star is placed on the peak of the family Christmas tree, or enjoys visiting holiday shows such as “The Nutcracker.”

The Indiana Ballet Conservatory (IBC) will be putting on six shows of “The Nutcracker” at two different venues, the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre and at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby.”

Miko Fogarty, who plays Princess Masha (Clara) and Sugar Plum said she began rehearsing for this season’s Nutcracker about a month ago.

“Each ballet is different in terms of the storyline and characters,” said Fogarty. “Dancers feed off the energy in the audience. When you ‘feel’ the audience reacting to your performance, you can’t help but rise to the occasion. That type of collaboration is exhilarating.”

Since Fogarty has been playing these two roles for the past five years, she finds many similarities in her characters and herself as a ballerina.

“Masha is a young girl who opens her heart to an ugly nutcracker doll. Her kindness and love help to transform the doll – and herself – into the prince and princess,” said Fogarty. “They go on a spectacular journey and awake the next morning to wonder if it was magic or a dream. Really, the life of a dancer is similar.”

She continues, “For those of us who are pursuing ballet as a career, we recognize this gift is not something to keep to ourselves, but to share with an audience. When we give our all on the stage and embody the character, the audience gets taken on a journey of their own. It is our goal to ensure that each person leaves the theater feeling something special and is transformed in some way.”

While there are a variety of “The Nutcracker” productions happening around the city, Alyona Yakovleva-Randall, founding artistic director, master teacher, and coach at IBC mentioned that this production’s version is closest to the original staging from nearly 100 years ago where it debuted in Russia.

“Even the names of our characters are true to the original storyline, Masha (Marie) instead of Clara. Even the backdrops, which were commissioned to be painted, match the original sets,” noted Yakovleva-Randall.

IBC’s Camel studios are bustling with over 170 dancers ranging from 3 years old to adults, countless production staff and volunteers during this time of year. Practice for “The Nutcracker” and other productions can begin early in the morning until 9 p.m. daily. In addition to Fogarty, acclaimed principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, Lasha Khozashvili is also one of the main characters in the show. Yakovleva-Randall said it’s a pleasure working with all of the dancers.

“It’s always satisfying to see our older dancers work together as a team to encourage and support each other,” she commented. “One simply cannot put on a production of this magnitude without harmony between the dancers. What always brings the biggest smile to my heart is when the older students reach out to the younger ones and help them learn their parts. Seeing the pre-professional students passing down what they’ve learned to the next generation of young dancers is truly satisfying. My entire life’s work is passing down the legacy of ballet down to the next generation.”

Indiana Ballet Conservatory’s ‘The Nutcracker’

The Murat Theatre at Old National Centre

Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

(Limited seats available for Nutcracker Tea, noon – 1:30 p.m., and VIP, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)

Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby”

Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.

Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at IndianaBalletConservatory.org.

Facts about ‘The Nutcracker’

  • Began as the published work “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in 1816
  • First production performed Dec. 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky composed the music for the ballet “The Nutcracker”
  • The first U.S. performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet
  • The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s “Nutcracker”® in 1954, which then became a popular holiday tradition
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