by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
North Ballet of Rogers presents “Nutcracker” each holiday season in Elk River, always throwing in new features.
Accordingly, tweaks and treats have been announced by Katie Kocinski for the fourth annual showing Saturday, Dec. 14, at Zabee Theatre in Elk River, 1 and 4:30 p.m.
“This is the first year that the Nutcracker Prince is being played by a student of North Ballet,” noted Kocinski, the North Ballet founder.
Jacob Walters, 13, of Coon Rapids, has progressed “by leaps and bounds,” said Kocinski, under the tutoring of artistic director Breanna Dvorak. The youngster now has the strength and skills to play not only the Nutcracker Doll in the party scene, but also the Nutcracker Soldier and Nutcracker Prince throughout.
Another first is the main role of Clara being performed “en pointe,” meaning on tip-toes. This year’s Clara is Elise Jones, 11, of Brooklyn Park.
The Growing Tree in the party and battle scenes is new and improved. “A magical tree grows right in front of (the audience’s) eyes … and will reach over 20 feet,” said Kocinski, crediting engineer Tom Sem for the design and construction.
Mother Ginger will again take the center stage of the Land of the Sweets, with a new twist as she opens the front of her skirt and little “Cookies” will bound out.
An original backdrop for the party scene, by Ashley Woods, recently nominated for a Broadway World Award, was commissioned.
Joining North Ballet in vocals for the Waltz of the Snowflakes will be North Star Boys Choir in the matinee and Rogers High School Jazz Choir in the finale.
Returning professionals are Arolyn Williams from Ballet West (Principal Artist) and Christopher Sellars (First Soloist). They join over 100 local youth.
A new performance was added as Buffalo Community Orchestra invited North Ballet to join them for a performance Saturday, Dec. 7. Thirty dancers will accompany the orchestra playing Nutcracker selections, with special choreography by Dvorak.
“We are very excited about this collaborative effort,” said Kocinski, “between two organizations that support the growth of the arts in our communities.”
Again this year, North Ballet gave condensed performances of Nutcracker on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the St. Michael and Elk River public libraries, and at Arbor Lakes Senior Living Community just before Thanksgiving.
North Ballet has donated tickets to soldiers and families through the Veteran Tickets Foundation, for the second year.