'The Nutcracker' brings magic to Walla Walla

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Ashley Akacich watches local dancers Summer Wardlaw, center and Jessica McVane, shown in the mirror reflection, as they run through their choreography.

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Jessica McVane and Chloe Danielson rehearse.

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Mid-Columbia Ballet's Erin Schultz dances in the Snow Scene.

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Mid-Columbia Ballet's Marisa Fazzari pirouettes en pointe in Spanish Hot Chocolate.

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Mid-Columbia Ballet dancers perform "The Nutcracker" in 2010 this scene at left.

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Taya Lovejoy leads a line of young dancers during a rehearsal earlier this month. The youngsters are among 40 Walla Walla-area dancers taking part in the production.

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Jessica McVane holds one of the central characters from "The Nutcracker."

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At a recent rehearsal for "The Nutcracker," Ashley Akacich, Walla Walla Symphony youth orchestra manager, coaches young dancers for their roles in the upcoming production, which will take the stage Saturday at Whitman College's Cordiner Hall.

WALLA WALLA - A holiday classic will take the stage Saturday at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College campus.

"The Nutcracker" will be performed by the Walla Walla Symphony orchestra accompanied by the Mid-Columbia Ballet. In addition, 40 students from The Dance Center in Walla Walla will participate.

The 2 p.m. matinee and 7:30 p.m. evening performances will be the symphony's 425th and 426th concerts. Yaacov Bergman will conduct.

Featuring what may be some of the most recognized Christmas music in the world, "The Nutcracker" was first performed at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Dec. 17, 1892, under the direction of Ricardo Drigo.

The two-act ballet was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Originally on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky's opera, "Yolanta," the debut met with mixed reviews although the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet gained worldwide popularity.

The complete "Nutcracker," however, has enjoyed enormous popularity since the mid-20th century and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season and especially in the United States. Tchaikovsky's score has become one of his most famous compositions, in particular the pieces featured in the suite.

The ballet and music have found their way into numerous pop culture productions, including film, television and even video games.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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