L'Ecole de Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

During its several incarnations in Juneau, the production has evolved

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2001

The snowflakes and flowers, the cossacks and clowns join the Sugar Plum Fairy in "Nutcracker."

The Juneau nonprofit dance school L'Ecole de Ballet brings Tchaikovsky's holiday classic to the stage at the JuneauDouglas High School auditorium this weekend.

"This is our third or fourth production of 'Nutcracker,' " said L'Ecole de Ballet dance teacher and Director Patti Mattison. Mattison choreographed the dances for the show. She said she drew on some of her past choreography and redesigned some of the dances.

"Some go back to the first staging and others have evolved," she said, adding that she customizes the choreography to the students.

"I try to push them a little further, so they have a challenge," she said.

Mattison, who works full time as a safety program manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, has taught ballet for 27 years. Last year L'Ecole de Ballet produced a ballet based on the film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Mattison said 25 or 30 dance students ranging from age 7 to adult will perform in "Nutcracker." Kayla Wilke, 12, will perform as Clara, and Marissa Capito, 16, will be the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Wilke has studied at L'Ecole de Ballet for four years and said she rehearses about 11 hours a week. Her toughest dance is with the nutcracker prince in the snow scene.

"I jump up and he holds me above his head," she said. "It was hard at first; I was scared he was going to drop me."

Chris Silver, who plays the prince, proved to be up to the task and Wilke has never been dropped.

"We have quite a few showcase roles," Mattison said. "It allows the kids to show off what they do best."

"Nutcracker" was first staged in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia, home of the Kirov Ballet. The ballet is based on the book "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" by E.T.A. Hoffman. "Nutcracker" was one of Tchaikovsky's final compositions. He was commissioned by choreographer Marius Petipa to write the music for the Nutcracker Ballet In 1891 and died just two years later.

Mattison said she will use a recording of the traditional Tchaikovsky score for the production.

"Nutcracker" will be staged at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 in advance at Hearthside Books, $12 at the door and $2 less for seniors and children under 12.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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