For a dozen years, Imagine Ballet Theatre has offered local audiences plenty of “Nutcracker” action each December.
And this holiday season is no exception.
The Ogden-based dance company is not only offering seven performances of “The Nutcracker Ballet” at Peery’s Egyptian Theater this month, it’s also partnering with Performing Artists Lengthening Strides to offer the special-needs performance “Jazzy Nutcracker” in the theater, as well as hosting a “Nutcracker Tea Party” at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center next door. All that, along with an additional four abbreviated daytime shows for local schools being bused in to Peery’s Egyptian.
Raymond Van Mason, who founded Imagine Ballet Theatre 17 years ago, built the company’s annual “Nutcracker” production into an anticipated local tradition.
“I would say that right now with our production — scenery-wise and costume-wise — we’re probably close to having about a half-a-million-dollar production, or even a little more,” he said. “Of course, that’s taken us 12 years to get to this point.”
Every year, the ballet adds a few new costumes or headpieces, according to Van Mason. And between the costumes, props, sets, dancing and timeless music by Tchakovsky, he says Imagine Ballet’s “Nutcracker” gives the big boys a run for their money.
But Van Mason also said it’s important to know that those who attend Imagine Ballet’s “Nutcracker” performances are supporting local artists.
“I want somehow to make sure people understand that the scenery, the costumes, the dancers, the musicians — it’s all a product of the folks in Ogden,” he said.
And the thing Van Mason is most excited about this year?
“It’s the fact that I finally have two boys trading off doing the Nutcracker Prince — boys that I have trained,” he said. “In the past, I’ve had to call Ballet West and say, ‘Can you send me a guy?’ But this year, we don’t have to do that.”
The festivities kick off with the Nutcracker Tea Party, set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center, 2415 Washington Blvd., in Ogden.
The party will feature treats as well as tea or hot chocolate. A small craft center will be set up where participants can make an ornament, and the ballet dancers will perform a couple of scenes from the show.
“We’re also having kind of our own little festival of trees, where there will be trees on every table that are up for bid,” Van Mason said. “It’s a bit of a fundraiser for us.”
Van Mason said attendees will also have an opportunity to take photographs with cast members from the ballet.
“It’s a chance to get up close and personal with the dancers,” he said.
Admission to the Nutcracker Tea Party is $22 for adults and $20 for children, available at smithstix.com or by calling the theater box office at 801-689-8700.
Performances of “The Nutcracker Ballet” — featuring dancers and actors ages 5 to 81 — will be offered at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, as well as Dec. 19-20. There will also be shows at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, and Dec. 21.
Tickets to the ballet are $12-$29, available at smithstix.com and the theater box office.
One of the highlights of the month’s dance events is the “Jazzy Nutcracker,” according to Van Mason. At 7 p.m. Dec. 18 in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Imagine Ballet dancers will join with the PALS organization for an hour-long performance by children and adults with disabilities. The evening is set to Duke Ellington’s toe-tapping, jazzy rendition of Tchakovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Tickets are $10.
Van Mason said they’ve got about two dozen company dancers — and about the same number of PALS performers — participating in the evening.
“It’s a really great evening for the kids, and it’s good for my dancers to understand how fortunate they are and not to take what they have for granted,” he said.
Van Mason is particularly proud of the fact that all of his company’s productions of “The Nutcracker Ballet” are performed with the Ogden-based New American Philharmonic. He sees that as an important part of training for his students, “so they understand the living part of what we do as dancers.”
“We’ve done every show with a live orchestra,” Van Mason said. “Live music is important to me in the training of my kids. There’s a different energy when it’s live than when you’re dancing to a recorded CD — you know exactly what that CD will do, every time. But you don’t know what that conductor will do. He might have a hot date later, so he might speed it up.”