ARC Ballet and Orchestra winter show will contain selections from ‘The Nutcracker’

Heather Halk practices the “Dance Arabe” from “The Nutcracker” during rehearsal last week. The ARC Orchestra and select dancers will perform selections from the suite Wednesday during the Family Holiday Concert. (Photo by Brooke Purves)

When Tchaikovsky was commissioned to compose the ballet that would be “The Nutcracker” in the 1890s, he was asked to create something that could be a recital piece, according to American River College ballet director Sunny Smith. That’s why the piece is so long, she said. “There is a slot for everyone, from the babies to the top dancers.”

And everyone is joining in to perform in the Family Holiday Concert, a group effort between the ARC Orchestra and Ballet.

Elena Yanovskiy, a piano performance major and the orchestra librarian, does not normally play with the orchestra, but Steven Thompson, music director, knew she could read music and asked her to help out on percussion. “If you can read any type of music, you can play percussion,” she said.

Yanovskiy also plays the celesta part that “everyone knows” during the Sugar Plum Fairy’s dance. The celesta is a keyboard instrument, but its hammers hit metal plates rather than strings like on a piano. Although Yanovskiy plays the part on a keyboard (the orchestra doesn’t have a celesta), the sound is authentic and identifiable.

“I love ‘The Nutcracker Suite,’” said Yanovskiy. “It’s a really fun piece. It feels in the Christmas spirit: very festive. So I was excited and agreed to play that.”

The orchestra does play the piece very well and it certainly is merry.

“(The suite) is open to interpretation,” said Smith. It is continually being redesigned to fit the school and the dancers performing it. Smith chose very talented dancers for the performance, including those whose style is not traditionally associated with ballet.

Kevin Haken and Nolan Lewis, both dance majors, perform with a bone-bending dubstep flare in “The Nutcracker” and in “Sleigh Ride,” when Lewis momentarily poses as a laid-back Santa in his sleigh. Smith specifically asked Haken to perform in “The Nutcracker” because of some of his better-known moves. “The image of his lingerlooping reminded me of one of the flutes in the piece,” she said.

The other dancers are acrobatic, fluid and altogether engaging in the suite and in the waltzes and other dances.

The event, featuring soprano Natasha Scott, proves to be a delightful holiday evening for the whole family.

The Family Holiday Concert is at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, in the ARC Theatre. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the box office an hour prior to the performance or online (with an additional $1.34 convenience fee) at arcorchestra.brownpapertickets.com.

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