Northeast Atlanta Ballet upholds holiday tradition with 'The Nutcracker'

By: Katie Morris

Published: November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving is over, and the holidays are in full-swing. Northeast Atlanta Ballet is offering people the chance to ring in the season with its classic rendition of E.T.A Hoffman’s tale, “The Nutcracker.”

The company’s 18th annual production of “The Nutcracker” will be at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center through Sunday. Audiences can join Clara and her Nutcracker prince on a magical journey, battling the Mouse King and traveling through the Land of Snowflakes and Kingdom of Sweets to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Jennifer Gordon, Artistic Director of Northeast Atlanta Ballet, said the cast and crew are excited to return to the Performing Arts Center for their 18th year.

“It’s one of our favorite shows to do each year. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a special holiday spirit in building. We see a lot of the same families return each year and have watched kids grow up. It’s a community tradition,” Gordon said.

The family friendly production features the classical music of Tchaikovsky played live by Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s resident orchestra, The Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Trocina. The ballet company has partnered with Gwinnett Symphony for eight years — Gordon said it’s a great partnership because it provides a high-quality artistic experience for audiences while keeping dancers on their toes.

Dancer Mackenzie Cown, a graduating senior, is returning for her sixth “Nutcracker” — this year, she’s dancing the lead roles of Dew Drop and Sugar Plum Fairy. Cown said rehearsals began last September, and she’s been dancing around 25 hours a week to prepare for her roles. She said her motivation and inspiration have come through the Lord.

“When I dance, I want people to see the light of God through me,” Cown said. “Our production is an opportunity for people to step outside of what’s going on in the world. Despite all this bad stuff that is going on out there, there’s still a light and there’s still God. I want to be like him in the way I dance and I want people to see that.”

This year’s “Nutcracker” will include some added touches like brand new, custom costuming for the Snowflakes designed and built in Russia, new Arabian pas de deux and party scene costuming designed and built by MJ Designs and a custom designed sleigh. Local costumer Barbara Mock has been designing and creating costumes for local ballet companies since the ’80s.

“If you’ve seen a local ‘Nutcracker,’ then you’ve probably seen one of my tutus,” Mock said.

Mock designed and built a new Snow Queen tutu and Cavalier costume for Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s production. According to Mock, a lot goes into building a tutu — each one takes about 15 hours of labor and 20 yards of net that’s 60 to 90 inches wide. Since “The Nutcracker” is a yearly tradition for most people, Mock wanted the new Snow Queen tutu to be unique and over the top.

“It’s the prettiest tutu I’ve ever made. Most tutus are all one color, but with this one we alternated blue and white and added sparkle, alternating the way the fabric went on and it’s beautiful,” Mock said. “The Cavalier has to look as good as her, so we used the same fabrics, but he’s more masculine.”

Dancer Emma Button, also a graduating senior, is returning for her 11th “Nutcracker” and will perform the part of Sugar Plum Fairy in the ballet’s second cast. She said one of her favorite things about the show is the fact that it has become a holiday tradition in the community.

“The story itself is surrounded around Christmas and family. We perform it on Thanksgiving, which is also a time for family. I know my family comes together to see the show, and it’s become a tradition,” she said. “It’s a classic story and it’s a joy to see a new, fresh generations dancing it every year. I’m supper excited and can’t wait to see the turn out this year.”