The Courier November 29, 2002
By: Rebekah Martinez, Contributing writer

Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without The Nutcracker

The Woodlands Festival Ballet premieres the seventh season of its own Nutcracker performance at the Montgomery College Theatre in The Woodlands on Dec. 13-15, with both evening and matinee performances during its run. The semi-professional dance company, founded by current artistic director Deborah Rayburn, has created an alluring production including local dancers from The Woodlands, South Montgomery County, Northern Harris County, and Brazoria County. True to tradition, the production also includes professional guest artists in the starring roles --this year, Norbert Nirewicz from the Polish National Ballet stars as the Sugar Cavalier and Gavin Larsen from the Alberta Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

"We have an interesting group this year. The dancers that make up the production consist of students from the Academy of Dance and Arts in Lake Jackson and from The Woodlands Academy. We always have open auditions for the Nutcracker (we held them in April) so it's a nice mix of professional and area dancers," Rayburn says. "It's a lovely production -- we've elevated a lot of the scenery aspects and theatre effects so it's going to be different than what people are used to seeing.

We originally set the choreography for this ballet in 1995, so it's pretty traditional; we just adapt it to our dancers. The choreography varies depending on the virtuosity of our dancers, for example, this year we have a Sugar Plum Fairy who is amazingly capable and she'll be doing nine pirouettes -- it's phenomenal, not something you see very often."

In conjunction with the ballet, the non-profit organization has included some extra community-based activities. A Sugar Plum Fairy tea was held on Nov. 16 at the Woodlands' Barnes and Noble, where the audience was given sugary samples from the Land of the Sweets, a Nutcracker Story Time and a chance to meet the costumed dancers.

"The tea was only about the third time we've done it and each time has been remarkably successful," Rayburn said. "We'd love to do it every year because we like to keep close ties with the people in the community. In our opinion, art happens on a local level."
The dancers will also be hosting their annual Sugar Plum Day at the Ballet on Dec. 14 (at 2 p.m.). The program invites youth to come dressed in their favorite dance costume and receive a free gift.

On performance nights the Nutcracker Market Guild holds a concession stand and a boutique (selling items related to the Nutcracker) in the spectacularly decorated theatre lobby.

"We're very honored to be able to do this for the community with such wonderful dancers in glorious costumes and I don't think there's anybody who wouldn't enjoy Tchaikovsky's score," Rayburn said.

Tickets for the show are $13 for grand tier seating and $15 for orchestra seating. They may be purchased only at The Woodlands Dance Academy -- located at 27326 Robinson Road --or charged by phone at (281) 292-9441.

For more information about the 2002-03 season or to find out more about the organization and ticket sales to the Nutcracker, visit

Performances begin Dec. 13 at 8 p.m., Dec. 14 at 2 and 7 p.m., and Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.