Experiencing a classic childhood tale typically enjoyed during Christmas through the graceful interpretation of a ballet is one way to get into the holiday spirit.
The Aiken Civic Ballet will present its fourth annual “The Nutcracker” show in December. The two-act ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between 1891-1892, has become a holiday staple for many around the world.
The young dancers have been practicing since the summer at the Crosby-Miller School of Dance, perfecting their foot work, leaps and twirls.
More than 90 dancers are participating in the performance, according to Wendy Swygert, president of the Aiken Civic Ballet Board of Directors.
This year is very special as the show is dedicated to the late Carl Crosby, a well-known local dancer and founder of the Aiken Civic Ballet. He passed away at the age of 88 in July.
Swygert said the show has been close to or completely sold out the past three years.
“We'd like to invite the community to come out and be part of a new tradition,” Swygert said.
Diane Toole Miller, owner and artistic director of the Crosby-Miller School of Dance, has worked closely with her dancers, from directing “The Nutcracker” to making final adjustments to costumes during dress rehearsals.
“We're just really excited to do it for the community again,” Miller said. “They've been rehearsing since August, and I think they're really ready.”
What makes this year's show a little more unique is that the prince, played by 12-year-old Isaac McNamee, has the pleasure of working with three Claras, the young lady who journeys through the different magical dimensions of the story. Rose Boucher, 11, Ellie Sessions, 12, and Annelise Shick, 10, are all taking turns playing that role.
Miller said she had three very talented girls try out for the part and just couldn't say no to any of them.
How does the prince feel having three lovely ladies on his arm?
“It's triple times the work,” McNamee said laughing.
The Aiken Civic Ballet is also excited to have Cristian Laverde König dancing the role of the Cavalier. Born in Cali, Colombia, König received his professional training at The Instituto Colombiano de Ballet (Incolballet) and The Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba.
The other big roles are performed by local students. Claire Berchtold, 17, is playing the Sugar Plum Fairy and was ecstatic to get the role.
“I was really excited because ever since we started, I wanted to be the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Berchtold said. “It was fulfilling because I achieved that goal.”
The high school seniors, like Berchtold, will be dancing in their last Aiken Civic Ballet “The Nutcracker” and it's a bittersweet moment for these ladies.
“It's really sad,” said Karlee Sightler, 17, who is dancing as the lead Arabian. “I'm definitely coming back. This is where all my best friends are.”
The dancers have spent many hours preparing a show that they are proud to present to their community and they hope many come to see their hard work.
“It's definitely worth it,” Sightler said. “Even if you've been before, it's different every year.”
Swygert said “The Nutcracker” is a volunteer effort and she thanks everyone, including parents, who have helped with costumes and painting sets.
Tickets are $15 for children and seniors and $20 for adults – they can be purchased at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center Box Office.
The show will run on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and on Dec. 8 and 9 at 2 p.m. at the USCA Etherredge Center.