Redding City Ballet Celebrates 20 Seasons of the Nutcracker
By Kerri Regan
Sugarplums & Peppermint Swirls
Story by Kerri Regan
Photos courtesy of Redding City Ballet
ENJOYING "THE NUTCRACKER" ballet at Christmastime is an age-old family tradition all over the world. For 20 years, it’s also been a tradition for the Redding City Ballet family, which proudly presents the show this month on the historic Cascade Theatre stage.
Nearly 50 dancers are part of the 20th anniversary of Redding City Ballet’s presentation of “The Nutcracker,” which will feature three performances on Dec. 7 and 8.
“A lot of people see ‘The Nutcracker’ as a tradition, getting ready for Christmastime. It’s the most family-friendly ballet – it has so much going on that can entertain the kids, versus a lot of other ballets that kids can’t really sit through and enjoy,” says Ashley Ramsour, ballet mistress for Redding Arts Project, the host studio for Redding City Ballet. “We have crazy costumes and so many fun characters.”
While the audience is always multigenerational, this time the cast is, too. “Our youngest dancers are 5-year-olds – they dance as the peppermints who come out from the skirt of Mother Ginger,” Ramsour says. “We have a grandfather of one of the 6-year-olds who is in the party scene with her.”
Several dancers will be back on stage after leaving the North State to attend college, says Ramsour.
“Since it’s our 20th year, we wanted to do something special and different,” says Ramsour, who has danced with Redding City Ballet since 2009. “We’re bringing back some old choreography from past years, all the way back to 2000. We have some brand-new choreography, but we also have some small bits from 2000, 2003 and 2009 as a tribute to all the past years of dancing that we’ve done.”
While the storyline doesn’t change, each show is unique. “We love to add new props and scenery, and change the style of the characters,” says Ramsour, who choreographed about half the show and also plays the Snow Queen, Marzipan and Flowers. “Sometimes Drosselmeyer is a scary character, sometimes he’s a silly character, sometimes he’s mysterious. Same with the Rat King – sometimes he’s a male who’s big and strong, and sometimes it’s a female Rat Queen who’s small but very sneaky. You want to keep the tradition, but there are different twists every year.”
Director is Diana Christensen, who took over that role from founder Cindy Michaels about five years ago. The role of Clara is played by 13-year-old Makenzie Agdeppa, and the Nutcracker is Coby Sturges. Drosselmeyer and Cavalier are both played by Tyler Williams.
Auditions were at the end of August and rehearsals began the first of September, so the cast and crew are looking forward to finally having an audience. “We have a school performance on Thursday where the audience is packed full of kids from schools. We get the best reactions and applause from them. They’ll hoot and holler, and it’s so much fun.”
Saturday’s matinee will be followed by the Sugar Plum Tea, which is included in the ticket price. All of the characters will go upstairs and guests can meet them while enjoying cookies and punch.
And while Ramsour’s 2-year-old daughter isn’t quite old enough to perform in the show yet, she’s looking forward to the time when she can slip on those ballet slippers and take the stage. Ramsour met her husband, Lucas, while doing dance together when they were both 14, and their daughter, Elevesque, was named in honor of the eleve and arabesque dance steps. “We dancers love to get our kids involved once they’re old enough,” Ramsour says. “It makes us overjoyed that they have the same love for the dance that we do.” •
Redding City Ballet presents “The Nutcracker”
7:30 pm Dec. 7 and 8, 2 pm matinee Dec. 8 followed by a Children’s Sugar Plum Tea • Cascade Theatre
Tickets $14-25 • www.cascadetheatre.org