In the land of sugarplum fairies and toy soldiers, anything is possible.
The Allegheny Ballet Company is gearing up to present its 28th annual performance of the "The Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19 and 1 p.m. Dec. 20. at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona.
"The biggest thing this year is that our students are doing all the major dance parts. That's what I'm most excited about," ABC Artistic Director Cristin Burwell of Hollidaysburg said. "I think it's great that students are able to give audiences such a quality show at such a young age. These kids are up on stage doing the same things as 30-year-old professional dancers."
These Allegheny Ballet Company dancers are performing in the first act “party scene” in “The Nutcracker.”
Every student enrolled in Altoona's ABC is involved in the play in some capacity, Burwell said, adding the average age for student dancers is between 6 and 18.
Roles are assigned according to individual students' skill levels and range of experience.
Burwell, who attended and performed with Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and studied dance at the School of American Ballet in New York City, said her main hope for the performance is that audiences come away with a strong sense of Christmas spirit. But she also would like her students to get the recognition they deserve.
If you go
What: "The Nutcracker"
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19, 1 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: Mishler Theatre, Altoona
Admission: $20 for adults, $16 ages 65 and older, $12 ages 12 and younger
What: "Nutcracker Gala"
When: Dec. 19, following the 7:30 p.m. performance
Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona, 1212 11th Ave.
Admission: $50 adults, $46 ages 65 and older, $42 ages 12 and younger (prices include the performance and gala combined)
What: "Nutcracker Brunch"
When: 11:30 a.m. Dec. 20
Where: The Casino at Lakemont Park, Logan Township
Admission: $30 adults, $26 ages 65 and older, $19.50 ages 12 and younger
Tickets for all events can be
purchased by calling the Mishler Theatre Box Office at 944-9434.
"I just want the audiences to get an appreciation of the hard work these kids have put in," she said. "It's the lead students doing the majority of the advanced dancing, but in reality, it's all going to trickle down. I mean, the younger kids are doing the very same thing that the little kids in the New York City Ballet are doing with this production."
ABC's main objective is helping every student achieve to the best of their ability, she said. That's why the company consistently arranges for students to work with ABC alumni who've gone on to become professional dancers.
Such is the case with 15-year-old Grace Koury, a ninth-year ABC student who recently had the chance to train with ABC alumnus and Altoona native Jared Angle, who is now the principal dancer for the NYC Ballet.
"To be able to rehearse with Jared before the performance was an amazing experience," Koury, a 10th-grade student at Altoona Area High School who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, said. "Jared has really helped me with my dancing - it was just amazing working with him. And it was really fun being up in New York City around the holidays."
Angle will be returning to his hometown to play the part of the Cavalier. It marks the third time he's been in the ABC production.
"It's always exciting to come back to my hometown," Angle said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., where he was getting ready for a performance at the Kennedy Center.
"It's especially exciting to dance with my old school and the students. But mostly, it's to show students that they can take this somewhere - that it's not just fooling around."
ABC Board of Directors President Louisa Lobre-Riley relishes Angle's return.
"The students are so excited to have him coming back to dance with them. It's really a great opportunity for the students to interact with a professional dancer, and it's also a great opportunity for the community to see a professional performer."
Lobre-Riley of Altoona also plays the part of Clara's mother in the party scene. It will be her fifth time appearing in the production.
"It's so fun to interact with the kids on stage," she said. "Every time we do the performance it gets better and better, and the students progress in their techniques. I really think this year's performance is going to be even more spectacular than last year's."
Burwell expressed gratitude to all who've assisted the company over the years.
"We just want to thank the community for their support," she said. "This year has been the highest year for fundraising in a long time. Without all the support, we wouldn't be able to do this."
"Nutcracker Gala" ticketholders will have premier seating and be treated to a "Land of the Sweets" reception after the show at Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona. The reception will include a holiday raffle, desserts and complementary wine.
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.