Dec. 6-8: Children's Ballet Theatre's "Molly Mouse's Sugar Plum Debut" • Original ballet set to Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" score, choreographed by Julie Orlob and Stacey Orlob-Richins, along with Bart Cook and Maria Calegari, former New York City Ballet principal dancers. At Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; Thursday-Saturday, 6 p.m., and 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday; $15 adults; $12 for students; $5 children up to 4 years old; at 801-355-2787. Info at DanceAtCBT.com or 801-487-0565.
Dec. 13-14: Salt Lake Dance Center and Ballet Jeunesse's "The Night Before Christmas" • 7 p.m., Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; $11 (with $2 theater fee) at arttix.org, 801-255-2787 or at the door; info at 801-467-5404.
Dec. 13-15: Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company's "Three" • Works by retiring artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen; 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Dec. 15; at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center's Jeanné Wagner Theater, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; $30 (student/senior discounts); at 801-355-2787 or arttix.org.
Dec. 14, 15, 22: Imagine Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker" • New American Philharmonic under the direction of David Van Alstyne, with ballet choreography by artistic director Raymond Van Mason, and artwork by Sherry Ferrin; Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden; 7:30 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22; $12-$25 (plus service fees) at 801-689-8700 or www.egyptiantheaterogden.com.
Dec. 15: Parsons Dance Company • Park City Performing Arts Foundation at the Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City; at 7:30 p.m., $20-$67 (with seniors/children/Summit County education discounts) at 435-655-3114 or EcclesCenter.org.
Dec. 15, 17, 20-22: Utah Regional Ballet's "The Nutcracker" • Professional performing company based at Utah Valley University; at 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Dec. 15. At Covey Center for Arts, 425 W. Center St., Provo. Tickets, $17-$27, at coveycenter.org or 801-852-7007.
Dec. 16: Park City Dance Academy's "The Nutcracker" • at the Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City; 4 and 6 p.m.; $15-$20 ($10-$15 children), at 435-658-2345. Info at www.parkcitydance.com.
Dec. 22: Quixotic Fusion • Park City Performing Arts Foundation at the Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City; at 7:30 p.m., $20-$67 (with seniors/children/Summit County education discounts) at 435-655-3114; or ecclescenter.org.
Spin, Sugar Plum, spin
This "Nutcracker" season Ballet West soloist Sayaka Ohtaki will perform the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy four times, for a school performance and three professional shows, while dancing with a new partner, Beau Pearson.
The role wasn't hard to learn, but is a stamina challenge, says Ohtaki, a 26-year-old dancer who grew up in Tokyo and New York City before joining Ballet West in 2010.
The dancer once was a law student in New York City, but dropped out to chase a professional dance career. "I wanted to live my life with something that I love to do," she said, which didn't make her parents particularly happy at the time.
As a young dancer in Japan, she performed in five "really different" versions of the venerable ballet. The difference is that her company would only perform two shows, versus Ballet West's run of three school shows, plus 24 matinee and evening performances, featuring eight cast combinations and this year an added five-day, seven-show run at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. "I wish the audience could come to a couple of shows and enjoy the differences," she says.
Artistic director Adam Sklute characterizes the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy as one of the hardest in the classical ballet repertoire, despite its relatively short length.
"I use this role as a showcase for my leading ballerinas, but also as a testing ground for my up-and-coming stars," Sklute said. "If a ballerina can sustain and master the challenges of this role, I can seem them moving into other roles in the great ballerina repertoire."
The dancer has an entrance at the beginning of Act II and later performs what Sklute labels "a killer pas de deux," followed by a relatively easy finale. "That pas de deux and variation for the woman is so bloody hard it's almost as hard as doing a full four-act 'Swan Lake,' " Sklute says. "It requires absolute precision and purity, and there is no hiding behind drama and pathos, but one must constantly present an air of charm and warmth."
This year, after Ogden and Salt Lake City openings, Ballet West will pack and ship costumes, sets, cast and crew to D.C. for Dec. 5-9 performances at the Kennedy Center. Sklute says the invitation is a prestigious honor that establishes Ballet West as among the world's leading dance companies. "Let's pray for good weather, because one ill-timed blizzard could really wreak havoc on our schedule," he said.
Transportation is only one of the logistical challenges. The D.C. run actually began in early September, when children's ballet mistress Cati Snar and Sklute conducted children's auditions. A local ballet mistress has been rehearsing the cast, regularly communicating and sending videos to Snar, who also is overseeing the 276 children in four Utah casts.
What • Ballet West performs Willam F. Christenson's "The Nutcracker"
When • Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 13-15, 18-19, 20-22, 26-27, 28-29, 7 p.m.; Dec. 1, 15-16, 21-23, 26, 28-29, at 2 p.m.; and Dec. 24 at noon.
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $19-$75 at Capitol Theatre box office, 801-355-ARTS or www.arttix.org.
More • After most matinees, young audience members are invited to onstage Sugar Plum parties with the cast. $5 at 801-355-2787.
Ellen Fagg Weist