Sugar plums began their dance for the Christmas season as the Ogden Symphony Ballet Association brought Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” to Weber State University.
The Ogden Symphony Ballet Association is an organization that helps raise money to bring the Utah Chamber Orchestra and Ballet West concerts up to the Ogden area. For more than 20 years, it has brought Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” to WSU for at least three performances.
Sharon McFarlane, executive director of the Ogden Symphony Ballet Association, said the timing for “The Nutcracker” this year was perfect, since Christmastime seems to come right after Halloween nowadays.
“For a lot of families, it’s a tradition to come every year to ‘The Nutcracker’,” McFarlane said. “We have one family that buys about 25 tickets, because they bring their children and grandchildren.”
Previous Ballet West dancer and WSU alumna Whittney Ostberg attended the performance. She said she believes “The Nutcracker” makes itself a popular Christmas accessory through the constant use of music and also its Christmas and winter-wonderland elements — “its sugar plums and flowers and fighting soldiers and mice,” said Ostberg, who was in the Ballet West version of “The Nutcracker” three times in her youth. “It’s like being in a giant toy world. So, to be a part of that ballet, something that’s so well recognized by a lot of people, is inspiring.”
The story revolves around the Christmas dreams of a young girl named Clara after she is gifted with a toy nutcracker from her Godfather Drosselmeyer at her parents’ Christmas Eve party. After falling asleep in the living room with the nutcracker cradled in her arms, Clara wakes to the sight of an overgrown Christmas tree and mice. Her nutcracker has grown and come to life as well, and leads a toy soldier cavalry against the Mouse King. Clara throws her shoe at the rodent royal, giving the Nutcracker the chance to deliver the final blow. Once the Mouse King is dead, the Nutcracker turns into a handsome prince and takes Clara on a magical journey to the kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Ballet West had aspects in its show — besides the growing Christmas tree — to make it magical for the young audience members. Pyrotechnic effects were used during the battle between the mice and the soldiers, cannons firing loudly. Snow fell during the dance of the Snow Queen and her cavalier. As Clara was entertained in the kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy, there were dances featuring countries such as Spain, China, Arabia and Russia — each holding a culturally unique element. There was even a dance by a character called “Mother Buffoon,” in which a woman in a 7-foot-tall dress rolls around the stage and performs a number, with her many jester children jumping out from under her skirt.
“It’s kind of every girl’s dream to be in ‘The Nutcracker,'” Ostberg said. “There’s no feeling like being backstage, because you just know that you’ve got that performance out there, ready to go. It makes you want to perform better just because you’re in something that’s like a fantasy land.”
The cast of “The Nutcracker” includes several children from the Ogden area in its ranks who hail from local ballet schools. It puts them through a professional audition process and includes them in a legacy that stands aside from their normal recitals and practices in the company.
“It’s so important for our young people to have the fine arts,” McFarlane said.
After leaving WSU, Ballet West will perform “The Nutcracker” Dec. 2-28 at the Salt Lake City Capitol Theater. The shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.capitol.theatresaltlakecity.com.