Crossroads children introduced to ballet classic
Dec. 8, 2017 at 10:12 p.m.
Updated Dec. 9, 2017 at 6 a.m.
As the lights slowly dimmed at the auditorium, loud cheers of excitement from children erupted and then faded into silence.
Tealy Cooley, 8, attentively stared in awe at the characters who wore colorful outfits and danced joyfully at the fictional Christmas party.
"I love how it starts when they are all at the house and start dancing," said the Our Lady of Victory Catholic School third-grader. "My favorite characters are Clara and the Nutcracker Prince."
About 1,900 third-graders from Victoria and surrounding counties were transported back 100 years to a small German town when the Victoria Ballet Theatre presented its 33rd annual production of "The Nutcracker" on Thursday and Friday at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
The ballet company performed four educational shows where about 475 students attended each.
These shows are in addition to the four public performances they do Friday through Sunday.
Brenda Tally, artistic director, said the theater's outreach community members visit schools some time before the performance and teach the students about the storyline and concert etiquette. She did the same before each performance started.
"We like to get the kids warmed up and ready so they can have their mind on their story and follow it," Tally said. "We remind them of behavior in the theater and that they can react. We want them to enjoy it and react."
The production consists of about 200 cast members made up of 153 community members, 50 company member and five or six guest artists.
The dancers like to come out after each performance to meet with the children.
"They are our best audience, and the dancers feel like superstars," she said. "We have dancers who are done halfway through the show, but they stay in costume just so they can come out and see them."
A group of third-graders surrounded and hugged Melbourn Motl, 15, who was in her pointe shoes and costume for the Russian variation of the production.
Melbourn, who has been dancing with the "Nutcracker" since she was 2, was a featured dancer in the Peppermint scene with professional dancer Ryland Acree with Ballet San Antonio.
Melbourn said the children usually compliment their makeup and outfits, tell them they did a good job and ask if the dancers get nervous when they go up on stage.
"We come out to see how excited and fascinated they are," she said. "It's nice to see how much little kids appreciate dance."
Tally said the whole idea behind the educational performances is to make the arts more accessible to everybody.
She said introducing the students to ballet at a young age helps them realize they can connect with characters and their story.
"'The Nutcracker' is a holiday classic and great entertainment for the whole family," Tally said. "It's a great production to introduce people to ballet."