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With so many iterations of The Nutcracker ballet being performed this time of year, one may think they are all nearly the same. However, every production brings something new to the table. Last night's Nutcracker in the Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College was no exception. There was a wonderful warmth to the performance as the audience applauded along to pieces of the score. Of course, the grand venue added to this, as picturesque scenes unfolded onstage as if from a fairytale. Performers of all ages took the stage, but all had a joyful determination to bring the story to life. With the exquisite music of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra underscoring the invigorating choreography, it was an enchanted display of Christmas magic come to life through incredible talent.
Conductor of the SSO, Dr. David Hagy, delivered the curtain speech. His tone brought a sense of playfulness to the crowd, a much welcome greeting that invited the audience to clap along (in time) with the music. He also informed us of a couple changes in that night's performance. Unfortunately, two of the cast members, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier, would be absent from the production due to unforeseen circumstances. However, the quality of the performance most definitely overcame these changes.
Such changes included a touching dance between Drosselmeyer (Daniel Wiley) and Clara (Mila Wiley). The audience knew it was truly a father-daughter dance, despite that not being the case in the story. It added a beautiful personal touch to this production, especially around the holiday season. Moments like these made this performance feel a little closer to home, not to mention the collaboration between the Piedmont Dance Theatre and the SSO. The orchestra made moments of the story all the more vivid, playing energetically through the length of the show. Hagy led each iconic piece with relentless bravado, supported by the instrumentalists' consistency and an electrifying flute and piccolo section to boot. The element of community was not the only notable thing about this performance.
The dancers, no matter their age, were acutely tuned into their work, smiling through the most difficult choreography. Truly, one could look around the stage at any given moment and see everyone on stage performing, be it through dance or pantomime. This made for many curiously detailed stage tableaus. A fun pair especially was that of Clara's grandparents (Ryan Goldsberry and Rebecca Wiley). This hilarious duet added a layer of spirited spunk to the party scene that was not to be missed. Audiences also got a kick out of some of the younger performers, particularly the baby mice and cherubs. Though they may be the youngest of the company, they were fiercely dedicated to play their roles, and did so in an admirable and adorable way.
If you are looking for a performance of The Nutcracker so you can partake in this long-celebrated Christmas tradition, look no further than that of the Piedmont Dance Theatre. The display of local artistry brings this show close to home, with the same technical quality of larger productions. You will be enamored not only with the vividly colored set and beautiful costuming, but with the orchestra and company's dedication to their craft.
The Nutcracker repeats at Keppel Auditorium on December 19th. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.