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Last modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

IU Ballet Theater presents annual performance of "The Nutcracker"

Nov. 15, 2007


IU ballet students Kim Williams (left), Samantha Benoit, Ashley Thursby (centre), Demetria Schioldager and Jennifer Sherry hold a pose while rehearsing for the IU Jacobs School of Music's production of "The Nutcracker."

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Ballet Theater continues its tradition of holiday excellence this year by introducing the classic The Nutcracker with a new twist.

The 49th annual production, opening Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Musical Arts Center, will feature new choreography by Michael Vernon, chair of the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department, following a nine-year run of choreography by Jacobs School of Music professor Jacques Cesbron.

Through the years, Vernon has achieved international recognition for producing, dancing in and choreographing many versions of The Nutcracker -- and the Bloomington premiere of this ballet has special significance. "It gives me great pleasure to work with the talent here in Bloomington," he says. "The upcoming production is tailored to the dancers in the Jacobs School Ballet Department and the IU Pre-College program. The dancers are of the highest quality, which gives inspiration as I bring my choreographic view of Tchaikovsky's music to Bloomington. This will be a unique and very special production." Vernon, like Cesbron before, believes in telling the story in a traditional fashion, although his interpretation differs from many others. The role of Clara will be danced by an 11-year old from the IU Pre-College Ballet Program, rather than a dancer from within the ballet department. This will set the tone from the outset of a young girl's imaginings and dreams of an adult world. Vernon will also bring a theater background to his staging.

"You will see the drama between the big Christmas party that starts The Nutcracker with the dream/nightmare sequence in which huge mice appear and the toy soldiers come to life," explained Vernon. "As with Jacque's work, I've tried to give the production dramatic credibility."

Further subtle differences will be seen in how Vernon casts the various roles.

"How different choreographers see different characters is a very personal matter," he says. For example, his choice of the Sugar Plum Fairy focuses on a more intimate interpretation, which leads to choosing a more petite dancer. Different types of dancers, Vernon says, will give the steps certain looks. "While The Nuctracker is a ballet on a grand classical scale, I have come to believe that the interaction between Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy is of a very intimate nature."

The Nutcracker, composed in 1892 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is based on an old German fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The ballet did not become a staple of American Christmas culture until the 1960's, following George Balanchine's production at the New York City Ballet in 1954.

As in major cities around the country, The Nutctracker has become integral to Bloomington's Christmas traditions -- as well as to the IU Ballet Theater Season.


Photo by: Chris Meyer

Benjamin Warner (left) and Demetria Schioldager (center) rehearse with instruction from Michael Vernon, chair of the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department.

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"It's a very important part of our year," said Vernon. "It exposes the dancers in the department to one of the great classical ballets of our time, and it offers them a chance to work at difficult roles with demanding choreography. And it exposes them to a full-length ballet.

"The Nutcracker is a very special seasonal event. It has wonderful music, and it's a great theatrical opportunity. It's a great introduction to ballet, because it's very palatable, very easy to understand, and very easy to relate to. It's universal. It's sophisticated, while having the charm of a children's story."

The Nutcracker opens on Friday, Nov. 30, with performances through Dec. 2. Tickets can be purchased through the Musical Arts Center box office (812-855-7433), online at or at any Ticketmaster location. Prices range from $18-$35.

A special "Nutcracker Tea" will be offered on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.. Children and their families will be able to meet with and take photographs of members of the cast. The event will take place in the Musical Arts Center Lobby.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: All four performances of this year's production will be streamed live over the Internet. To enjoy the performance from your computer, go to: just before each show and click on the link to the live streaming.