Holiday Tradition: 'Nutcracker' Part of Season For Families
Across the globe, families are preparing for holiday celebrations with long-held traditions, many of which center their own family ritual on “The Nutcracker,” the enchanting ballet with its wonderfully familiar music by Tchaikovsky.
The Taylor Dance Company, which will bring its dazzling production to the Sandhills Nov. 23-25 at the Robert E. Lee Auditorium of Pinecrest High School, is no exception.
“It’s been a big part of our own family tradition,” says Rita Taylor, who with her husband and choreographer-master teacher, Gary, are the mainstays of Taylor Dance. Both began their careers as dancers, and Rita says she has directed or had a hand in annual presentations of “The Nutcracker” for 35 years.
They met when she was directing and he was dancing in a production of the classic.
“Our daughter, now an attorney, studied ballet with us and at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and through the years danced every role in ‘The Nutcracker,’” she says. “Our son followed in the same path, and after attending the North Carolina School of the Arts as a contemporary major, is now dancing professionally with Momix.”
One of the more than a dozen family groups that have taken part in Taylor Dance productions of “The Nutcracker” is the Fowle family, of Southern Pines.
Elizabeth Fowle, last year’s Sugar Plum Fairy, has been a student and later a teacher for the Taylor organization in High Point and Winston-Salem, while her father, Sam, has been on stage several times, playing the role of a party guest, and her mother, Christine, has designed and created costumes for Taylor Dance for 13 years.
Cinny Beggs, the producer for Moore OnStage for seven seasons before ringing the curtain down on the popular theatrical entity, also has been part of the “Nutcracker” family tradition. Starting in 1996 with Sandhills Dance, she joined Christine Fowle making costumes for the production, was talked into playing the mother of Clara, the young girl who receives the gift of a Nutcracker.
From that point on, she says, “I was hooked. Since my introduction to the ballet, I have probably seen it performed at least 30 times by different companies, some live and some televised. However, I never tire of the pageantry, the famous score, the beauty and grace of the dancers, and here I am, 15 years after my first performance, playing the grandmother in the party scene.
“My, how time flies — and what a marvelous tradition ‘The Nutcracker’ has become for so many families.”
Rita Taylor points out that throughout the years, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, and other relatives have experienced the thrill of performing in “The Nutcracker” party scene.
Some of the families on stage during this year’s presentation are Caroline and Brooks Mays; Alexis and Beth Whitecar; Emily, Joseph and Alan Melvin; Emma and Abby Marcus; Christa and David Blades; Max Epstein and Jules Latham; Ayla Rodriguez and Anna Yeatts; Chase Brock, Skylar and Kim Fielder-Jones; Jeremy Huggins and Denise White; and Nick and Linda Dokich.
The coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the current production will be danced by Julianne Gant, who says, “For my family, it is an important part of our holiday season. We love the music, the stage settings and the beautiful costumes as much as the story itself.”
Gant has been studying with the Taylors for 14 years, joining their performing company at age 7, and has danced with their companies here, in High Point and Winston-Salem.
Gant believes that it is beneficial to have the opportunity to progress through the many roles “The Nutcracker” offers.
“This provides structure and goals that can be accomplished during the hours of dance training, and the audition process gives us a chance for personal evaluation and growth,” she says.
“I am excited to have the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy — it is the crowning achievement for a dancer.”
The Taylor Dance production of “The Nutcracker,” sponsored by Dr. Brooks Mays, of the Pinehurst Medical Clinic, will be performed Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24, at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m.
Tickets for these performances are $22 for adults and $15 for students.
For more information, or to make a reservation, call (910) 695-1320. Reservations will also be accepted at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines.
In addition, there will be a special matinee on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. — with tickets for the military at $10 and general admission tickets at $15.
To start a new holiday family tradition, or renew an established one, a spokesperson for Taylor Dance suggests a family outing to see “The Nutcracker” is a fine way to begin the holiday season.
Mary Elle Hunter is a Pinehurst freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story