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Ballet Austin celebrates 50 years of The Nutcracker tradition with special opening ceremonies

Ballet Austin celebrates 50 years of The Nutcracker tradition with special opening ceremonies

Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_10
Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker. Photo by Tony Spielberg
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_14
Photo by Tony Spielberg
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_12
Photo by Tony Spielberg
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_11
Photo by Tony Spielberg
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_16
Photo by Tony Spielberg
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_10
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_14
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_12
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_11
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Nutcracker_behind the scenes_Dec 2011_16

For 50 years, Ballet Austin has been bringing the magical story of The Nutcracker to life on the Central Texas stage. In its half-century history, over 1.5 million residents have watched the whimsical tale of Clara and her holiday wonderland.

The golden anniversary of Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker opens Saturday, December 8 and runs through December 23 at the Long Center, bringing with it the traditions you've grown to love, along with some new celebratory elements.

The milestone production kicks off with a special opening ceremony on Saturday before the first performance. Ballet Austin’s Artistic Director Stephen Mills, explains the importance of the landmark celebration.

The opening of our 50th anniversary expands the idea of tradition and family. We're organizing a reunion of cast members for the performance and a party afterwards. We're hopeful that anyone who played a mouse, angel, soldier or any other character in the Ballet Austin production over the past 50 years will participate. It has the potential to be a huge event.

In addition to the reunion, Saturday’s opening ceremony will usher in the holiday spirit for audience members with a white carpet, appropriately made of snow, where guests can have photos taken, while donning their Christmas best.

Of course, the ballet is the real delight of the season, and the golden anniversary will include all of the fantastic images and nostalgia that The Nutcracker has conjured for years. The Mouse King, Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara will be attendance, as will Mother Ginger and her bon-bon children. And in traditional Ballet Austin fashion, the larger-than-life Mother Ginger will be played by a rotating cast of local (and not-so-local) celebrities, including Jenna Bush Hager, Sara Hickman and Sandy McIlree.

The special Community Choice role of Mother Ginger, voted on by the public, will be played by Kay Gooch (Gullet Elementary School Librarian, Texas Library Association) at the December 23 matinee performance. "I am so excited and overwhelmed I can hardly sit," Gooch says of her upcoming stage debut.

"I'm just floating on air and when I went to sit and read Rudolph to my students, I had to think about it. It's been so exciting to have the little kids running up to me and hugging me and calling me 'Mother Ginger!'"

As for the choreography, scenery and costumes of this year’s rendition of The Nutcracker, you can take comfort in knowing that Mills is sticking to the classics. “I make small changes each year but that's mostly for the dancers,” he says. “I've found that when I make discernible changes many audience members get upset. It's not called a tradition for nothing!”

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Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker is on stage at the Long Center from December 8 – December 23.