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“Nutcracker in a Nutshell 2014” takes the stage this weekend at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center in two performances that are free and open to the public. Approximately 60 dancers aged four to twelve years from East Lansing, Okemos, Lansing, Haslett, and Dewitt will tell the story of the Nutcracker through creative movement, choreographed by dance professional Mary Jane Gamble.
Boys and girls involved in the show began practicing two times per week immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday and will continue through this weekend’s performances. “Nutcracker in a Nutshell” is an East Lansing holiday season tradition for many families in the area.
Liesel Carlson is in her third year volunteering as a coordinator for the annual Nutcracker registration. Carlson’s daughter, now in the sixth grade, was four years old when she began performing with Gamble. Carlson appreciates the experiences it has offered her daughter and says, “Mary Jane is a gifted teacher” so Carlson tries “to help in a way that…[Gamble] can focus her creative energies on the dancers and the show”.
When asked what inspired Gamble to start a show like this within the East Lansing community, Gamble says, “I saw the Nutcracker at the Wharton performed by the Children’s Ballet Theater (CBT) and loved the story. I then began teaching just simple dances using the music by Tchaikovsky. The choreography was simple, often using rhyming words to match the music. This gave the movement access to all children no matter what their dance skills were. I started putting the story of the Nutcracker together into the story of Clara and her Godfather Drosselmeier. We did it in a small studio and it became so popular that I moved it to a gym and finally to East Lansing Hannah Community Center.” This will be Gamble’s 20th year putting on the show.
Gamble and Carlson note they enjoy observing as children move into more challenging roles as they grow and eventually many of them become assistants as they develop. Many of these “helpers” can be observed dancing the choreography off stage, remembering all the movements from their own performances as children!
Two performances of “Nutcracker in a Nutshell 2014” are offered this weekend: Friday, December 19 and Saturday, December 20. Both will be held at 5:00pm at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center. Highlights of years’ past performances can be viewed here.
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