The East Alabama Community Ballet will be presenting their 23rd performance of "The Nutcracker" ballet from Dec. 14–17 at Auburn University’s Telfair Peet Theatre.
The EACB has been organizing and performing "The Nutcracker" every year for more than 20 years through the combined effort of various local dancers.
“We are a conglomeration of a lot of area studios,” said Amy Parker, president of the EACB. “These girls all take classes during the week at their regular studios, and then in addition to that, they come in every Saturday and Sunday for practices at our host studio … and do 'The Nutcracker' practices.”
The regular opening performance of "The Nutcracker" will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15. The ballet will present two more regular performances at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In addition, the ballet will put on two special school shows for local third-graders each morning on Thursday and Friday, as well as a shorter performance for their Clara’s Tea Party event at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Tickets are $15 for all showings except the school shows, which are provided for free to third-graders.
Preparation for the December shows begins early. Tryouts are held in August, and once the parts are cast, the dancers practice every weekend for over three months.
This year, "The Nutcracker" consists of 51 dancers, most of whom are between the ages of 6 and 19. Hired professional dancers from the Georgia Ballet will play the parts of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier during the regular performances. Shelby Chaney, who danced with the EACB for many years and is now with the Georgia Ballet, will play the Sugar Plum Fairy during the school shows.
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Seventh-grader Melody Hays is playing the part of Clara. She has been dancing for six years and performed with the EACB in "The Nutcracker" last year.
“I just really love it. It’s so fun; it’s like a family kind of thing,” Hays said, adding that her “favorite part about 'The Nutcracker' is the story and how magical it is.”
Connor Dealy, who is playing the apprentice and the Nutcracker Prince, is a junior at Auburn University and has been in a variety of performances, including "A Civil War Christmas" and "Frankenstein." He has been dancing for two years.
“I’ve been doing freestyle hip-hop dance my entire life, and I did a lot of martial arts growing up,” Dealy said. “I switched majors into theatre, and I just kind of decided to take a dance class because I’ve always wanted to do it. And then I just kind of fell in love and have been doing it ever since.”
The EACB is a non-profit organization and strives to serve the community.
“Evey bit of money that we take in that doesn’t pay for the show goes back out into the community,” Parker said.
Part of this outreach is "The Nutcracker" school shows that the ballet puts on every year. For these performances, the ballet pays for every third-grader in Auburn, Opelika and Lee County schools to watch the play.
“We cover the cost of the show, and we even pay for the buses for them to come in and watch,” Parker said. “The girls really enjoy being able to give back and especially getting to see those little kids come to the theater who, a lot of them, have never been to anything like a ballet. … The kids come in, and they’re all dressed up and excited, and they get to see the show. And then they get to ask questions of the dancers afterward.”
The EACB also puts on a shorter performance called "Clara’s Tea Party" for younger children, who are "not quite ready to sit through the whole show,” Parker said.
“We perform just a little bit of the first act just to give them the backstory, but we do all of the second act,” she said.
After the show, the ballet serves cupcakes to the audience in the lobby, the children can get their faces painted, and girls can get their hair curled to look like Clara’s.
Interested theatergoers can find more details and order tickets at EACB's website.