A Thanksgiving weekend tradition, Taylor Dance welcomes the holiday season with its magical Nutcracker ballet. Why drive to Charlotte or Raleigh when you can experience a performance of a similar caliber right here at home? It’s the perfect blend of professional artistry with student talent that makes Taylor Dance’s production an unparalleled holiday favorite.
The sets for Taylor Dance’s Nutcracker were created by acclaimed designer Howard C. Jones, Director of the Scenic Art and Scene Painting Program at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Valued at over $250,000, the hand-painted scenes are visually stunning and transport you to any of the top stages in New York. The snow scenery alone consists of an enormous hand-painted backdrop, four portals, and four removable legs. But what the children will remember is when Clara’s Christmas tree grows before their eyes, and snow swirls down from the sky around the Snow Queen and King.
David Ward – Guest Artist
The show’s professional, period costuming, designed by Assistant to the Directors and Wardrobe Mistress Christine Fowle, is a perfect complement to the turn of the century world captured on stage. It’s a thrill to see the rich Edwardian details of the first act transform into the holiday fantasy of the second when the intermission curtain rises. With the Sugar Plum and Dew Drop Fairies’ hand-sewn “pancake” tutus alone valued at $8,000, the Land of the Sweets enchants.
At its heart, though, it’s the dancing of Gary Taylor’s Nutcracker that delivers the magic. Its cast of young dancers train with Taylor Dance’s “pre-professional” company, where each student auditions for placement and invests hundreds of hours annually. Of these dancers, Wake Forest freshman Mary Costanza and high school junior Rachel Dean, reprising their shared roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Dew Drop Fairy, and Snow Queen Christa Blades, a Union Pines senior, perform as apprentices with the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet, Taylor Dance’s affiliated professional company.
As a jewel in Taylor Dance’s tiara, a compliment of professional dancers offer supporting performances in both featured and cameo roles. Notably, David Ward, most recently with BalletMet, will be thrilling the Land of the Sweets as the Cavalier. Mr. Ward, who trained at the English National Ballet School, will be joined on stage by Julie Cox Taylor, who will be sharing the role of Sugar Plum with Ms. Dean and Ms. Costanza. Ms. Taylor, who performs with the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet, started her career with the Nashville Ballet’s Second Company and was formerly with the Richmond Ballet. Taylor Dance Ballet Mistress Elizabeth Fowle, India Green, Nicholas Franco, Kevin Arredondo, and Jeremy Huggins, all performers with the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet, delight as the balance of the professional cast, with Mr. Huggins performing as the audience favorite, Herr Drosselmeyer.
Performances will be Friday, November 24, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, November 25 and 26, at 2:00 p.m. at the Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College. For tickets, call 435-222-2TIX (2849) or go to www.tututix.com/client/TaylorDanceThePlayhouse/. An on-site box office opens at the theater one hour prior to each performance.
Feature photo: Mary Costanza in foreground & Christa Blades in background