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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Dance Alive National Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ returns to the Phillips Center

Performances will feature limited seating and masks will be worn

Dance Alive National Ballet will bring sugar plum fairies back to Gainesville with its socially distanced production of “The Nutcracker.”

The company’s 54th annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s two-act ballet will feature limited seating, and masks will be required for performers and audience members inside the venue, said Judy Skinner, the company’s resident choreographer. The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts holds 1,700 people but will only fill 400 seats to allow for social distancing. There will be no intermission during the show.

Four performances will take place at the Phillips Center at 7:30 p.m. from Dec. 17 through Dec. 20. Two afternoon shows will take place at 2 p.m. on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20. 

Tickets are $25 for balcony seats, $35 for mezzanine seats and $45 for orchestra seats. Students and seniors can purchase tickets for $25.

In the Gainesville performances, Skinner said the role of Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by Carla Amancio and Jessie Dominguez and the role of Nutcracker Prince will be danced by Alexsey Kuznetsov, Roberto Vega and Fhilipe Teixeira. The ballet’s cast will feature dancers from across the globe, including Brazil, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine and Japan.

To accommodate COVID-19 concerns, the company limited the number of children filling student roles in the ballet and other roles were double and triple cast. Skinner said the company’s size allowed it to remain open during the pandemic and continue paying its dancers.

“We are probably one of the few companies that is still performing,” Skinner said. “Most of the major companies are shut down. We are so small that we can manage to stay kind of in a pod.”

The cultural importance of the ballet made it an important tradition to preserve despite the ongoing pandemic, Skinner said.

“‘Nutcracker’ is the show for any ballet company,” Skinner said. “It’s the kind of show that anybody and everybody can go to and find something that makes them feel good. You don’t have to know classical ballet or classical music to enjoy the story.”

The Gainesville shows will feature special guests performing the role of Mother Ginger, including Mayor Lauren Poe, Larry Wurn of Clear Passages Physical Therapy and Cornelia Holbrook of Sweetwater Branch Inn and Catering. The role was offered in an auction at the company’s annual Champagne Gala in February.

Skinner said she finds the interchangeable role one of the more interesting parts of the annual performances.

“This is maybe the third year the mayor has done it. He’s so musical,” Skinner said. “It’s a fun role. You have no idea who’s going to pick up what.”

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Holbrook began taking evening classes with the company in 1977 when she was about 12 years old. She caters and hosts events for Dance Alive through the inn and said supporting the company has always been a priority.

“I love what they bring to our town and I love their dancers, which I’ve known throughout the years. It’s something that I go back to,” Holbrook said. “Because I still dance in my living room.”

On Dec. 19 and 20 at 4 p.m., the company will hold “Class with Clara,” a ballet class held onstage with one of the dancers playing Clara. Skinner said no training is required and children of all ages may attend as long as they are old enough to run and walk. Each class will be limited to 25 participants and tickets cost $25.

Tickets for the Gainesville shows can be purchased on the UF Performing Arts website.

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