The Nutcracker—A Tale from the Bayou will be one spectacular magical world of dancing azaleas and snow-covered oak trees that only Cajun Clara could imagine. Unique to South Louisiana, the holiday tradition will capture the imaginations of young and old. The artistic directors of the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre, Molly Buchmann and Sharon Mathews, have designed a show that is “rooted in Louisiana with scenic and architectural sites. This one is for everyone.” To really appreciate the lovely ballet, you have to understand how far it’s come and the amount of work that goes into creating it each year.
The Nutcracker—A Tale from the Bayou requires hundreds of volunteers in addition to the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre employees and local amateur performers. The entire show “would not be possible without our volunteers, wonderful artistic staff, theatre crew, and a little bit of magic in itself. Everybody works like a well-oiled machine,” says Christy Benoit, the Development and Communications Director for Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre. This year the BRBT will celebrate 26 years of this Louisiana-themed Nutcracker performance, which was created by Buchmann and Mathews. “When we were young, there wasn't one in Baton Rouge, and we said we were going to make one,” Buchmann proclaims. The directors started small, but the show grew each year, and now it is a permanent Baton Rouge tradition. The community waits all year for this beautiful show that honors Louisiana in its own way. The unique appeal of the show is that it is for everyone. You don’t have to be a classical ballet expert to enjoy yourself. Benoit explains, “It's a good introduction for those who might not be as familiar with dance because all of the special effects, music, and theatrical drama make it so entertaining.” Buchmann agrees, "It’s a window into the arts for all audiences because it combines classical music, classical dance, and theatre all together.”
Local dancers make the show possible and are joined by two amazing professionals: Alison Stroming from the Dance Theatre of Harlem will dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Aaron Smyth from London’s production of An American in Paris will join her as the Cavalier. The auditions for local dancers took place in late September, and all of the ballerinas have been practicing and rehearsing since. What was a room full of nine-year-old girls in leotards and tights will transform into sparkly Cherubs on the stage in just a few weeks. Nearly 300 dancers from Baton Rouge will float across the River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts stage much to the delight of the community.
The audition process and rehearsals are just the beginning of a memorable journey that bonds the dancers together for life. Benoit shares that The Nutcracker is one big dance education program that results in a full-scale production at the end. The dancers may come from all different studios in the community, but they make lifelong friendships. Through rehearsals on the weekends for younger dancers and the weeknights for older students, every dancer learns pivotal lessons not only about ballet, but also about teamwork and responsibility. “It’s an incredible opportunity to be with professionals, and a wonderful experience whether they dance again or not, as well as a chance to be part of a team where no one loses,” adds Mathews. Once the show moves to the actual theatre, the dancers learn about every small detail that goes into a large production.
You can experience this enchanting production with your family and make a lasting memory with them on December 16 or 17 right here in Baton Rouge. The Nutcracker—A Tale from the Bayou is “super memorable,” shares Susan Perlis, the Associate Director of Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre. “Such huge magic and beauty will stick in your children’s heads. They will remember it for 30 to 40 years.” Don’t miss it!