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A 20-year holiday tradition

Fort Wayne Ballet's The Nutcracker begins November 30

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


The 2007 production of The Nutcracker marks the 20th year in a row that the Fort Wayne Ballet has produced the holiday classic in its entirety, and the ballet’s artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown (this is her 9th production in Fort Wayne) says she is asked all the time why they do The Nutcracker every year. “The answer is, of course, that it’s a community holiday tradition,” she says. “Not just in our community, but in communities all around the US.”

The Nutcracker, which begins its run on November 30, is the Fort Wayne Ballet’s most popular performance. “I think that to a certain extent people look at The Nutcracker as something they do during the holiday season,” says Gibbons-Brown. “It’s truly a production. It has the visual of the costumes and the music with a live orchestra. I like to think that if people don’t like dance or think they don’t like dance, they’ve at least enjoyed the theater experience.”

And indeed, Fort Wayne has a right to be proud of its ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. The Wall Street Journal singled out the Fort Wayne’s Ballet’s production as one of the “Five Nutcrackers to See” a few years ago.

Not that we need their approval. Like Gibbons-Brown says, the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker is always a spectacle for the eyes and ears, and the people on stage and behind the scenes do whatever it takes to get every detail right for Clara’s trip through the land of sweets and all around the world. The 2007 production features some new costumes during the Christmas party scene in Act I. The clothes were created by FWB costumer Tess Heet, who wanted to capture the style of the time The Nutcracker was originally written in 1816, long before making its way to the stage.

“For the women, this means high waistlines right under the bust, and full, floor length skirts with a little bit of a train,” Heet says.

Doesn’t that make it tough to dance in?

“The dancing that happens in this dress is more of a court kind of dance,” she says. “It’s not something the train should bother too much. They do have to be aware of it and the gentlemen that they’re dancing with should be aware of it so they don’t step on it, but other than that…”

Girls wore a miniature version of what their mothers wore, except all in an ivory or off-white color, and the boys wore vaguely military-style outfits. Heet has designed all of this from scratch, using what she calls cast off fabric and other material to recreate the look of an 1820s Christmas party in Germany. Heet says she and Gibbons-Brown have long wanted to do something like this, but, as Heet puts it “what we would like to do and what is reality in the arts are often two different things.”

Of course, there are lots of “new” elements to The Nutcracker this year, but the thing is, it’s always new. Gibbons-Brown gets asked about that, too; how do you keep it fresh year after year? “It’s always different,” she says. “Any time you have a different dancer, you have a different part. That’s the nature of this art.”

And when The Nutcracker ends its 13 show run on December 9, Gibbons-Brown will already be preparing for next season’s show. “I take notes on every performance — ‘so-and-so, you need to watch the line in that space’; or ‘if you can move 5 inches stage left…’” she says. “But the last performance, I take notes on things I want to change or strengthen for next year.”

The Fort Wayne Ballet presents The Nutcracker
November 30, December 1, 7, and 8 at 8 pm.
December 1, 2, 8, and 9 at 2:30 pm
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street

Special performances featuring Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Fort Wayne Children’s Choir on Friday, November 30 at 8pm and Saturday, December 1 at 8pm. Meet Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy at our special event, Sugar Plum Parties, after each matinee performance. Be sure to ask about Sugar Plum Party tickets.

For ticket information, contact Fort Wayne Ballet’s box office at 260-484-9646, Monday through Friday 1pm-6pm or visit online at www.fortwayneballet.org.

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