Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Dances its way into the hearts of Sewanee residents

by Emily Daniel

There is no doubt about it: winter is upon us. As days grow shorter, temperatures plunge, and trees grow ever-barer, few can deny that fall is slipping away like sand through a sieve and Jack Frost is quickly taking hold of the Sewanee campus in his icy grip. Of course, this change is not entirely unwelcome—it brings with the opportunity to break out those scarves and boots and winter coats, not to mention the possibility of (gasp!) a little snow.

However, like most things, even winter weather begins to grow tiresome after awhile. Suddenly, the dark and the cold lose their luster and what was at first excitement at the change of seasons begins to fade into a bad case of the winter blues. It is only November, but already one cannot help but long for fall’s colors and anticipate the warmth of the coming spring.

Thankfully, on November 16, a much-needed antidote to this winter rut arrived as Sewanee residents were treated to two performances of the beloved ballet classic, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, courtesy of the Alabama Youth Ballet Theatre and the AYB-Sewanee Dance Conservatory.

With its memorable songs, colorful costumes, and talented, graceful dancers galore—many of whom were from either Sewanee, Monteagle, or Winchester—this production of The Nutcracker succeeded in melting away not only the winter blues, but also the hearts of Sewanee residents. The ballet’s story is a familiar one: it follows the adventures of Clara (played by Lauren Dawe during the matinee performance and Meredith Foster during the evening performance), a young girl who receives a magical nutcracker (played by Harrison Hartman) on Christmas Eve.

When Clara’s house is attacked by a devious pack of mice under the leadership of the fearsome Mouse King (played by Kate Mobley), the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer (played by David Herriott) brings her nutcracker to life to do battle with the mice. After defeating the Mouse King, the nutcracker transforms into a young prince and invites Clara to journey with him to the Kingdom of Sweets, where they are welcomed and entertained by dancers representing a variety of delicacies—most notably, the elegant Sugar Plum Fairy (played by Caroline Stegman during the matinee performance and Laura Griffin during the evening performance).

The ballet’s score was originally composed by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, and it arguably his best known work, containing numerous iconic pieces such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Nutcracker March,” “RussianDance,” and “Waltz of the Flowers.” The Alabama Youth Ballet Theatre and the AYB-Sewanee Dance Conservatory’s production of The Nutcracker was choreographed by David Herriott, Keren Gibb Hilliard, Loyd Tygett, Wendy Graham, Meg Hall, and Mary Halverstadt. It also featured costumes by Mary Ann Peterson and Susan Herder, makeup by Meg Hall, props by the Carey family, and lighting by Derrick Byars and James Stinson.