THOMASVILLE, Ga. — Nutcracker. That’s all anyone has to say. One word and you can hear the celesta begin, right? That music. And like the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, it means Christmas.

South Georgia Ballet, which will perform again with a live orchestra, opens its 21st season of “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2:30 p.m. at the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium. The Ballet will also host The Kingdom of Sweets Tea on Nov. 25 at 12:30 p.m. at the Thomasville Center for the Arts.

Four Moultrians will dance in the ballet this year: Annabelle Norman as the Snow Queen; Mary Cate Bazal as Arabian Princess; Holland Jarvis as Clara’s Friend; and Gabrielle Gallagher as Bon Bon.

The orchestra, under the direction of Boyan Bonev, adds an integral layer to the ballet.

“I have been involved with Nutcracker for over 25 years and when I heard the orchestra for the first time, I heard new notes and sounds that I just couldn’t hear on the recordings. It adds so much to the performance and we are so fortunate to be able to provide live music for our dancers and audience,” said Bonev.

There are many local musicians in the performance including Dr. Karl Barton, Dr. Sally Hernandez, Dr. Colleen Manseau Wade, Kevin Reichart, Joy Tedford.

“It is so important for the community to come and support local artists,” Bonev said. “This beautiful music enhances the ballet and the whole experience for everyone.”

The Nutcracker is every little dancer’s dream role as South Georgia Ballet’s Artistic Director Melissa June can personally attest. She danced the role as a young girl.

“I was 13 when I danced the role of Clara,” she said. “It is a role that never leaves you and as you get older you are left with this amazing memory whether you continue dancing or not.”

This year Clara will be danced by Kate Porter and Jewell Grace Gammill (Clara’s understudy). Jewell Grace will dance the role at the educational outreach show on Nov. 26 and will be in the principal role next year.

“Kate is made for this role,” June said. “Ever since she was a little girl, I could tell that she would be dancing this role one day. She lights up the stage with her smile and performance quality. She is the perfect Clara!”

The show will feature guest dancers Cervilio Amador in the role of the Cavalier and Melissa Gelfin in the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy, both from the Cinncinati Ballet.

“I saw them dance and my jaw dropped,” June said. “I have never seen such virtuosity and raw talent. The audience is in for such a treat with these two amazing professionals!”

Other guests this year include David Brandon returning as The Nutcracker Prince. Jeff Lovett returns to the stage as Clara’s godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer, as well as his wife Della, son Ethan and granddaughter, Charlie.

Students of the Ballet’s Step Up program will dance in the matinee performance on Nov. 26. Step Up is an instructional outreach program for children in Thomas County.

“Our Thomas County program brings children from the Marguerite Neel Williams Boys and Girls Club and the Thomasville Community Resource Center,” June said. “This program gives 2nd to 6th graders the chance to have classical ballet training once a week.”

The program admits 20 kids from each center, starting them in the 30-week program in August. Students get a full year’s experience with the company. Currently there are six dancers from Step Up in the main ballet company.

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