Young talents abound in Nutcracker

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

A Christmas tradition is continuing for a pair of local schools, as audiences have four chances to catch “The Nutcracker,” starting tonight and running through Monday.

Clovis’ Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy has the first performance, tonight and Friday. Sunday and Monday finds dance classes at Eastern New Mexico University’s Extended Learning performing the classic tale.

The show from LJAA is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight and Friday at Clovis Community College’s Town Hall with $5 admission. The Extended Learning performances will be 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the University Theatre Center with no charge.

“The Nutcracker” is a tale of a girl named Claire, whose family has gathered on Christmas night. Claire’s godfather Drosselmeyer gives her a nutcracker doll as a present. When Claire falls asleep, the nutcracker doll comes alive and Claire’s home turns into a magical land where the nutcracker is her guide.

All things considered, Lincoln Jackson Principal Shelly Norris thinks it’s a choice that the participants enjoy.

“I think the thing that touches them first is the beautiful set,” said Norris. “I think every child loves being in a world of candy. It was also inspired by a child’s book.”

The book by ETA Hoffman, turned into a musical event by Tchaikovsky, has been a tradition for both of the performing agents for many years.

For Extended Learning, it is in the fifth year.

The show, Program Coordinator Geralyn Million said, started when Summer Lassiter taught dance classes with the office. Lassiter recently left the office and now teaches at her own academy in Portales, and Million said that Taryn Dedeaux has taken over the annual event.

“It’s long-standing here with Extended Learning,” Million said. “It’s a Christmas program (with) beautiful music.”

The show at the LJAA is nine years old. Though LJAA is only five years old, many teachers brought the desire to do the show again when they came from Cameo Elementary.

The show will be acted out by five of the grades at the K-6 school — first- and third-graders are at work on the spring opera. The show is being choreographed by Yvonne Racz of the Lubbock Ballet company.

For LJAA students working on “The Nutcracker,” it’s not treated as an extracurricular activity so much as a central point for learning.

“At Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy, we don’t just teach the children about the stories,” Norris said. “Everything we do with ‘The Nutcracker’ is in line with the state standards.”

For example, Norris said, if a state standard required children to learn about somebody famous, they could study Hoffman or Tchaikovsky. A science class could learn about nuts and how they grow.

“The arts,” Norris said, “are our way of teaching our kids to be great students.”

For the students at Extended Learning, the program is done by children who are learning outside of their elementary school, and the production is a way to show what they’ve learned since the first days of classes.

“It’s really rewarding (to watch the show),” Million said, “because they have a lot of fun with it and enjoy performing.”

Dedeuax offers about 13 classes this year, and all will be taking part in the show, Million said. Some groups will be part of the Sunday show, some part of the Monday show, and some will be part of both.

Sunday will be the busiest day, Million said. The University Theatre Center won’t be available until Sunday morning, so the day will include set decoration, a rehearsal and the first performance.