'The Nutcracker' to be told four ways

Dance Augusta first among local companies that will stage holiday classic



To some, the day after Thanksgiving means the rush of holiday sales, but to others, it means the start of holiday traditions.

“Thanksgiving weekend really works for us,” said Zanne Colton, the artistic director for Dance Augusta, which in its 44th year presents the area’s longest-running Nutcracker ballet that weekend. “We find it opens up the whole holiday season. People have family come in; they take the Thanksgiving weekend off.”

And they are looking for something to do once they’ve shopped and eaten their fill of turkey, she said.

Dance Augusta director emeritus Ron Colton performed with the New York City Ballet in the 1950s, where he learned the choreography of George Balanchine. The Dance Augusta Nutcracker draws from Balanchine’s works.

Dance Augusta’s Nutcracker will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 29, and 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Imperial Theatre.

Tickets are available at the Imperial Theatre box office or online at imperialtheatre.com.

 COLUMBIA COUNTY BALLET began its Nutcracker tradition in 1997.

“We do the traditional story, and we have a lot of children in it,” said Ron Jones, the artistic director.

Though the story is the same, Jones said he likes to mix up the choreography each year in order to showcase the specific talents of the dancers in his company.

This year, he has slowed down the choreography of the Arabian to show off the extensions and long lines of his dancer. His Russian lead is a female with athletic jumping skills, and he’s added an ensemble of young dancers who have added hip-hop to the piece.

“I like the energy the dancers bring,” he said.

Columbia County Ballet will present its Nutcracker on Friday, Dec. 6, at the Imperial Theatre. Tickets are available at the Imperial box office or imperialtheatre.com.

CUTNO DANCE CENTER’s Nutcracker in the South will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center.

An updated version of the Tchaikovsky classic, it uses the music of Duke Ellington’s Three Suites to tell its tale.

Ellington’s music turns Tchaikovsky’s coffee into cookies and his Sugar Plum Fairy into Sugar, Rum, Cherry.

Tickets are available online at https://21397.recitalticketing.com or at the door on the day of the performance. For more information, call (706) 364-3442.

AIKEN CIVIC BALLET filled in the city’s Nutcracker void about five years ago with its unique twist.

“Our Nutcracker is a citywide event that the Aiken Civic Ballet puts on,” said Diane Tooler Miller, the artistic director. “Dancers from other studios are able to audition. We have at least four other studios participating, and we have a lot of boys.”

All of the dancers are local except for the Sugar Plum Fairy’s cavalier. Guest artist Cristian Laverde Koenig, originally from Colombia and past principal dancer with the Milwaukee Ballet, will perform that role.

Though Miller uses some standard Balanchine-inspired choreography, she has created some of her own scenes as well.

“Instead of having Mother Ginger, we have a circus scene,” she said.

The Nutcracker in Aiken will be the weekend before Christmas at the University of South Carolina Aiken Etherredge Center. Performances will be at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22.

For tickets, call the USC Aiken box office at (803) 641-3305.

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