The Nutcracker a time honored tradition continues

PLATTSBURGH For the last 22 years, the Nutcracker, a ballet dating back to the 1800s, has been performed by local dancers at the State University of New York at Plattsburghs Hartman Theater. With nearly 60 dancers ranging in age from 5 to 60, the play proves to be for all ages. I think that Nutcrackers anywhere are a tradition, said North Country Ballet Ensemble artistic director Deborah Guibord-Stay, who also owns and directs the Guibords North Country School of Ballet. I think that a lot of families have just gotten into the flow of coming and they think its a really nice way to begin the holiday season. The ballet is truly a holiday story, as it takes place on Christmas Eve, when a little girl, Claire, receives a nutcracker from her uncle at the family Christmas party. [Her uncle] makes her have a dream, and her dream takes her through various places, explained Guibord-Stay. Such places include the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy, where a variety of people such as the Spanish dancers, Chinese dancers, Arabian dancers, and Mother Ginger and her Bonbons perform for her. [The Bonbons] can do nothing wrong. Thats what I say, laughed Guibord-Stay. I always rehearse with them and theyre fun, but when they get on stage you never know what theyre going to do. Aside from the 5-year-old Bonbons doing what they will on stage, other minor changes are often made yearly, and Guibord-Stay said it does not go unnoticed. There are always subtle changes every year, said Guibord-Stay. Im always amazed at this: People pick up on the changes. Im like, You come to one show, once a year, and theyll come up to me after and theyll be really specific [in the changes]. Changes often made include the choreography, which varies depending on who they have teaching the dancers; lighting, which is often tweaked every year; and costumes, which Guibord-Stay said are always evolving. The only costumes that have remained the same since Guibord-Stay began directing the Nutcracker are the Bonbons. About 1980 or 81, I actually started doing Nutcrackers, on a very low scale, explained Guibord-Stay. I took it into schools. So, my husband, whos a very good-natured guy, we would trailer and we would have parents build sets out of cardboard and that sort of thing. Then, in 1985, Guibord-Stay became one of the founding members of NCBE, where she was finally able to produce the Nutcracker on a larger scale in 1986. The purpose of [NCBE] was to bring quality dance to the area, explained Guibord-Stay, and to offer students, no matter where they study in our area, a chance to dance alongside professionals, pre-professionals, and to produce as high a quality show as you can, working still, with students. The quality of the show is so high, it takes nearly $40,000 to produce the ballet each year. However, if plans go as Guibord-Stay hopes, they may need an extra $10,000 next year. I have an idea of something to change our Nutcracker and in a way leave my mark, she explained. Having previously seen a production of the ballet where George Washington was the nutcracker, Guibord-Stay had the idea of making the battle scene based on Battle of Plattsburgh. I have a choreographer ready to work on this, Guibord-Stay explained. But [were] going to have to recostume, reset. Its a mammoth production, but I think it makes a lot of sense. With such high costs to produce the ballet every year, Guibord-Stay said selling tickets helps tremendously with costs. However, shes also aware of the current economic situation and wants to help wherever she can. Because of the economics of the world today and because we often have big families coming, we actually took a couple dollars off our tickets this year, she said. We have group rates, too. So like, Girl Scouts, or home-schooled children, that kind of thing, if they come as a group, they can get a good rate. Tickets are being sold ahead of time, and they day of each show. This year the shows will be held Friday, Nov. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 29, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each day. The final show will be held Sunday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m. only. For more information on where to get tickets call 534-9334 or visit www.balletplattsburgh.org. If interested in assisting Guibord-Stay with her plans for the Battle of Plattsburgh next year, she may be contacted at 561-5550 or by e-mail at debbieguibord@hotmail.com. I cant tell you how important this becomes as a part of their life, said Guibord-Stay of the production. Its just something they look for every year. And the excitement is never lost. And the love and the value of what these students get out of doing this; its totally worth it to do our end of the job.

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