Schrader Youth Ballet Brings ‘Clara’s Dream’ to Peoples Bank Theatre Dec. 17

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The Nutcracker is perhaps the most recognized ballet of all time. Based on the 1816 story by German author E.T.A. Hoffman The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and interpreted through French playwright and novelist Alexandre Dumas’ adapted story The Nutcracker, the ballet premiered at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg on Sunday, December 18, 1892. Some 52 years later, the complete ballet would be staged for the first time in the United States in 1944 on Christmas Eve by the San Francisco Ballet under the direction of the company’s artistic director, William Christiensen. Fast forward 73 years since that production, and almost exactly 125 since the work’s premiere, and you’re nearing the Schrader Youth Ballet Company’s annual production of the condensed work, entitled Clara’s Dream, at the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta on Sunday, December 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 to $18, and available now.

Erin Augenstein, the company’s executive director, said the company has been tackling a shortened version of the work annually since the mid-‘90s. The version the company produces every year was originally conceived by the late Duncan Noble, former dean of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

“(Duncan Noble) used to visit us a couple of times a year to choreograph for us, and we decided that we needed to do a condensed version of The Nutcracker since we are a youth company and not a professional one. A professional production of The Nutcracker is about three hours long, and for a company to fill every role appropriately they’d need a cast of about 90,” said Augenstein. “Doing a shorter version of the production gives us an opportunity to use all the music from The Nutcracker that people love and recognize and keep all of the important story elements and main characters.”

Being that any production of The Nutcracker is going to be at least a little involved, the company oftentimes works with professional dancers and guests to fill in some of the roles with more complex choreography, otherwise completing the cast with children ages six through high school and some alumni of the company who are now in college.

This year the Schrader Youth Ballet Company is bringing in accomplished guests Robert Royce and Jesse Tidquist, who most recently served as the Ballet Master and Mistress at the New York State Ballet. Royce will perform as Drosselmeyer and Tidquist as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen. Eight college students will also be taking part in the production from Ohio University, the Ohio State University, the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, Marshall University, and West Virginia University.

The Nutcracker season is a long one, with some companies starting their productions of it the weekend after Thanksgiving and running all the way until the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Augenstein. “It really is our busy season. It’s a very popular production because people who do not necessarily study the arts like art with a story that they can follow, whether that art is a painting or a book or a ballet. The Nutcracker is a very popular story ballet that is popular all around the world. Even with the music – you can hear Tchaikovsky in everything from a dish washer detergent commercial to a car commercial all season long. It’s a production that has a dedicated audience every year – sometimes it’s grandma who brings all the kids to see it every year, or maybe some people see it every couple of years.”

The production fulfills two of the Schrader Youth Ballet Company’s mission statements: providing meaningful, authentic performance opportunities for interested youth dancers and providing a chance for the public to see classic ballet. The company was created by its current artistic director, Velma Schrader, who has been teaching classic ballet in the Ohio Valley for over 50 years.

“Velma Schrader has been teaching dance in this area for 52 years, she’s had thousands of students, and, at this point, she could retire if she wanted to,” said Augenstein. “But, she has chosen to continue to work with kids to keep the arts alive.”