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'Nutcracker' carries on holiday tradition

The Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a scene from “The Nutcracker Ballet,” which comes to the Sheldon Theatre stage on Dec. 21.

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Local audiences aren’t the only ones who treasure the annual holiday performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” at the Sheldon Theatre.

A Red Wing visit has become a fond tradition for the dancers, too.

“We have been ending our ‘Nutcracker’ season at the Sheldon” for at least 15 years, said Genevieve Spooner, assistant director for the Continental Ballet Company production.

“We love our tradition” of closing the season in Red Wing then taking a break until work resumes in January, she said.

Clara and her Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy and other memorable characters from the story return to the Sheldon for a 2 p.m. matinee Dec. 21. As in the past, choreography and staging are by Director Riet Velthuisen.

The dancers will tell the timeless story of Clara’s fantastic voyage to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy with her magical Godfather Drosselmeyer.

The version performed by Continental Ballet is considered “family friendly,” officials noted; this production develops themes of generosity, non-violence and responsibility.

While the ballet will be familiar to many, Spooner said Velthuisen always infuses some changes “to keep it fresh and exciting.” This year, she created some new choreography for the “Spanish Dance.”

People who come to the ballet regularly will recognize many of the faces, Spooner said. Liza Rod again dances the role of Clara, with Casey Juul as her Nutcracker Prince. John Agurkis is Drosselmeyer, Katie Daly is the Rat Queen and Annie Nimmo is the Flower Queen.

A new Sugarplum Fairy will dance that role. Karen Siedsma, an experienced dancer, will be seen this year in place of Yuki Tokuda, who is recovering from an injured foot.

Also, Spooner said, “We lost John Munger. It will be the first year without him.” Munger was Drosselmeyer for years, then took on the role of Mother Ginger.

As in past years, some local youngsters will appear with the 23 professional dancers as boys, rats and children of Mother Ginger.

Red Wing dance teacher Dawn Anderson said that because of the challenge of logistics, this year’s local dancers will be her children: daughters Moriah, Autumn, Summer and Trinity and sons Easton and Dawson Anderson. They all studied with their mother and at Fusion Dance.

Continental Ballet tours “The Nutcracker” throughout Minnesota and annually sells out O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul when it perform especially for the Girl Scouts of America.

The company’s mission is to promote the integrity of classical ballet while ringing dance into the community. In addition to public performances, it has been offering studio classes and educational programs in the Twin Cities for more than 20 years.

School residencies and outreach activities have brought ballet to an estimated 40,000 school children and some 100,000 people statewide.

The company was established in 1988 by Velthuisen, a native of Holland who has danced professionally with several European companies. She has choreographed and/or staged all of the ballets in the company’s repertoire.

Tickets to the Dec. 21 performance are $27.50 for adults, $17.50 for students. Call 651-388-8700 or go online to

If you go …

Who: Continental Ballet Company

What: “The Nutcracker Ballet”

When: 2 p.m. Dec. 21

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Cost: $27.50 adults, $17.50 students

More info: 651-388-8700,