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Harmony’s ‘Nutcracker’ adds fantastical touch for today’s children

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — When “The Nutcracker” first entertained an audience on Dec. 18, 1892, in St. Petersburg, Russia, things were a bit different than they are today. But that hasn’t diminished the love people still have for this traditional Christmas ballet as it continues to take the stage around the world.

And one stage will be in the Marble Falls High School auditorium when Harmony School of Creative Arts performs “The Fantasy Nutcracker.” Though it follows the traditional story line complete with Peter Tchaikovsky’s score, people familiar with the ballet might notice a few nuances added by Harmony’s instructors and artistic director.

But it’s all done so children can really understand and follow the ballet’s story.

“When it was written, the opening party scene included gifts like coffee, tea, chocolate and marzipan,” said Kathleen VanBerg, artistic director of Harmony’s School of Dance.

While those gifts symbolize places around the world such as China (for tea) and Arabia (for coffee) and made perfect sense to the audiences during the original performances of “The Nutcracker,” VanBerg didn’t think today’s children would really pick up on the symbolism.

So VanBerg tweaked the story to create “The Fantasy Nutcracker.”

“I’ve regard it to the gifts, so kids today can understand and follow the story,” she said. “It’s still ‘The Nutcracker’ but has more fantastical elements, so children will really enjoy it.”

On that sense, “The Fantasy Nutcracker” makes for a great introduction to the ballet for children. But that doesn’t stop people of all ages from enjoying the Harmony production, sometimes year after year as it’s become a Highland Lakes tradition.

“It’s an exciting ballet,” VanBerg said about both the original and Harmony’s version. “The music, of course, is illuminating by itself. The music takes you on a journey itself, even if there wasn’t a ballet. But the ballet and story just makes it such an incredible experience.”

VanBerg believes this year’s production of “The Fantasy Nutcracker” could be one of the best — if not the best — Harmony has produced. She credits that to the development of the dancers.

“Now that our dancers have matured, the dancing is such high quality,” she said. “Jane Allen has done an incredible job with the ballet and dance program. We have young ladies who are trying out for ballets across the country and making it.”

All that means people attending this year’s production can expect to be transported around the world as Clara, the Nutcracker and, yes, the Mouse King take them there along with a complete cast of dancers, actors and performers. In fact, VanBerg said the Harmony production features 75 people — children and adults — moving on and off stage.

“It takes a lot of work, but I think it’s going to be a great show,” VanBerg said.

Harmony’s Fantasy Nutcracker takes the stage at 7 p.m. Nov. 22 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 23. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door for adults and students 13 and older; and $5 in advance and $8 at the door for ages 4-12 and 65 and older. Children 3 and younger are admitted free of charge.

Reserve seating is $20 in advance and $22 at the door.

All the performances are at the Marble Falls High School auditorium, 2101 Mustang Drive.

Tickets are available a Harmony School of Creative Arts, 1503 Mormon Mill Road in Marble Falls; the Marble Falls H-E-B on RR 1431; and GYMACT of Marble Falls, 2413 Commerce St.

Go to harmonyarts.org for more information.

daniel@thepicayune.com