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UNCSA’s annual production of  The Nutcracker returns to the Stevens Center

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UNCSA’s annual production of  The Nutcracker returns to the Stevens Center

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is undoubtedly one of the world’s best-loved ballet musicals and has long been a holiday staple the world over — including at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), where it has been among its most popular annual productions.

Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the live production was canceled in lieu of a filmed production, so the yearly tradition continues. This year, UNCSA’s production of The Nutcracker will once again be presented live at the Stevens Center (405 W. Fourth Street, Winston-Salem) Dec. 10 -19, and offered on-demand for those who prefer to enjoy it at home. For purchase options, call 336-721-1945 or visit https://www.uncsa.edu/performances/nutcracker/index.aspx. Ticket prices for live performances are as low as $25, and $75 for the “Nutcracker On-Demand Experience,” which will be available beginning Dec. 20.

The live performances of The Nutcracker will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 and Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 15-17, noon and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 and 18, 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 12 and 19, and a 10 a.m. matinee Wednesday, Dec. 16. Due to local mandates, audience members will be required to wear masks.

“So many families come to see The Nutcracker year after year, but an evening event can be difficult for our youngest audience members,” explained Jared Redick, assistant dean of ballet at UNCSA. “Our new schedule allows parents to select ticket options that best fit their needs, so everyone can experience the magic and excitement created by talented students in our schools of Dance, Design & Production and Music.” (Proceeds from ticket sales will help support scholarships for those three schools.)

This year’s production of The Nutcracker boasts new choreography by UNCSA School of Dance faculty member Ilya Kozadayev, who also choreographed last year’s filmed version, and music by the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Jiannan Cheng.

“Nothing beats the thrill of live performance — for the artists and the audience,” said UNCSA chancellor Brian Cole. “Last year, amid COVID-19 restrictions, UNCSA came together to create an innovative, all-new Nutcracker film, which reached audiences near and far online. This year, we’re excited to offer both live and recorded performances so that everyone can share in the delight of our stunning stage production.”

Tchaikovsky’s two-act “fairy ballet” was based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s classic children’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and made its debut in 1892. Remarkably, it was deemed a failure, but in the ensuing years has become an acknowledged classic, both in terms of its holiday theme and its appeal to all ages. 

For Jett Lecamu, a 10th-grade student in the School of Dance, to be cast in The Nutcracker as both the characters of the Nutcracker Prince and Trepak might seem an honor in itself, but Lecamu, who hails from Winston-Salem, was also selected to compete in the Prix de Lausanne 2022. The international ballet competition, which was created in 1973 for dancers aged 15-18 years old, its goal is to discover, promote, and support the finest young talents from around the globe.

Some 376 applicants from 39 different countries submitted videos of their work, and a total of 74 dancers were selected to join seven pre-selected candidates for the competition. In total, 81 dancers from 17 countries were selected to participate in the Prix de Lausanne 2022.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment for Jett, and it affirms the quality of our training program for young dancers, both male and female,” said Redick. “As one of Jett’s main teachers, I’m proud of his accomplishment and the excellent work he’s done with his faculty coach, Ilya Kozadayev (the aforementioned choreographer of The Nutcracker).”

Lecamu is the fifth UNCSA student in as many years chosen to compete in the Prix de Lausanne and the seventh in nine years. “The Prix de Lausanne is a launching pad for a dancer’s career,” said Redick. “Erik Kim went to the Prix de Lausanne in 2019, his senior year at UNCSA, and from there he joined the Ballet Sodre in Montevideo, Uruguay. He’s currently a company member with Atlanta Ballet. Another alumnus, Bret Coppa, was awarded a contract with Atlanta Ballet after competing at the Prix de Lausanne in 2017.”

In addition, Lecamu was a finalist last spring in the North American competition of the Youth America Grand Prix in Tampa, FL, and will compete in the Winston-Salem regional semi-finals in February 2022.

The official UNCSA website is https://www.uncsa.edu/.

See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2021, Mark Burger.

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