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The Nutcracker: a local dance tradition

Students in the ballet studio at Leslie's Dance and Tumbling practice an arabesque. An arabesque is a move in which a dancer stands on one leg with the other extended, and is often used to transition from one move to another. Pictured, from left are: Rendon Mohr, Emma Pantini, Olivia Hagen, and Trinity Woody.
Students in the ballet studio at Leslie's Dance and Tumbling practice an arabesque. An arabesque is a move in which a dancer stands on one leg with the other extended, and is often used to transition from one move to another. Pictured, from left are: Rendon Mohr, Emma Pantini, Olivia Hagen, and Trinity Woody.

Five dancers from Creston and Afton, who take classes at Leslie’s Dance and Tumbling and Spotlight School of Dance, will be performing in the Iowa Dance Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Iowa Dance Theatre, originally called Des Moines Civic Ballet Company, was founded by Mary Joyce Lind. She staged the first Nutcracker in the Des Moines area in 1966 said Elizabeth Adams, co-director of the Nutcracker.

The 2018 Nutcracker performance includes 247 cast members from 30 different dance studios across Iowa, including five from Leslie’s Dance and Tumbling, and two from Spotlight School of Dance, both in Creston.

Adams said that the ages of dancers range from 8 years old to “almost senior citizens.” The production includes roles for a wide range of ages, those who dance en pointe, dancers on track to become professionals and those who participate for fun.

In past years, Iowa Dance Theatre has invited past cast members to be guest artists in the performance. This year, however, the past dancers were busy with their own performances. Instead, a dancer from the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Dylan Gutierrez, and former dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Julia Erickson, will be this season’s guest artists.

Adams said that it has been “really cool” to watch children go from being a mouse in the show when they are young to coming back as guest artists as adults.

Leslie Tyler, owner of Leslie’s Dance and Tumbling, said she is “so excited” to watch dancers from her studio perform in The Nutcracker.

“Participating in The Nutcracker like this builds their confidence,” she said.

Tyler said the students and their parents take the commitment of practicing, driving to rehearsals in Des Moines and making it to performances seriously.

Adonica Struhar, owner of Spotlight School of Dance, said students participating in the production travel to Des Moines every weekend between Halloween and Christmas for rehearsals.

When a snowstorm prevented Tyler’s students from driving to Des Moines for rehearsal, Tyler gave them the key to use her studio for practice.

“They are very determined. They have terrific integrity. They do what it takes to do their best. They are very talented,” said Tyler.

Struhar said the students from her dance studio are fun to work with and they are mature and dedicated.

Students participating in The Nutcracker from Leslie’s Dance and Tumbling and their roles are: Rendon Mohr, Olivia Hagan and Brooke Hanson as Russians, Emma Pantini, Ginger, and Trinity Woody, Arabian. Student performers from Spotlight School of Dance and their roles are: Jurnee Harvey, Arabian, and Zaina Harvey, Ginger.

The Nutcracker performances take place at 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and 2 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Des Moines Civic Center. Tickets and more more information are available online at desmoinesperformingarts.org.

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