Valdosta Daily Times

December 1, 2013

The Nutcracker: Valdosta show dances into 41st holiday season

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Only one time, one year since 1972, has Linda C. Chase not presented her local Dance Arts Inc. production of “The Nutcracker.”

It was a holiday season in the 1980s, when Mathis City Auditorium was undergoing renovations.

At the time of the absent show, Dance Arts’ “Nutcracker” was only about a decade old, which was still long enough for

it to have become a local tradition.

“For me, there was definitely something missing, but I think many people felt that way, the performers, the audiences, everywhere that year, there was a feeling that something was missing,” Chase has recalled in past interviews.

But this year, the 41st year of the performance playing next weekend, “The Nutcracker” continues what may be the production’s newest tradition: The Valdosta Symphony Orchestra returns for the fourth year to provide live music.

Dance Arts originally partnered with the VSO to commemorate Valdosta’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The idea of the partnership began in 2009, when the orchestra’s Doug Farwell approached Chase about backing the popular holiday dance with live musicians. Such a collaboration makes sense. “The Nutcracker” features the famed classical score by Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Making the leap required additional preparations.

Dance Arts traditionally used recorded music, allowing Chase to make all of the calls on moves and more. With the addition of the orchestra under the direction of Conductor Howard Hsu, both Dance Arts and the orchestra have had to collaborate on the production. Even causing a major shift in the rehearsal tradition. In the past, Chase has rehearsed each scene separately. The show never had a full begining-to-end run-through until the opening performance before an audience.

With the orchestra participating, the production now has a full rehearsal prior to the opening performance.

Nonetheless, as long-time fans realize, the show remains the Christmas classic they have come to love with the added magic of a live professional orchestra.

In 1972, Chase put into effect her long-held dream of presenting a full-length production of “The Nutcracker.” With help from Dave Christian, then the head of Valdosta’s Department of Parks and Recreation, she presented her choreography and students in the first production that same year.

To give a little historical framework, Dance Arts’ first “Nutcracker” hit the stage in the weeks after President Richard Nixon was re-elected to his second term, and it was presented months before the term “Watergate” became a household word.

Dance Arts’ “Nutcracker”

has continued through eight presidents and the popularity of the dance shows no sign of flagging.

Partly, its success rests on the timeless nature of the original work. Russian composer Pjtor Ilyich Tchaikovsky based his score on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story, “Der Nusscrackern und der MauseKoing,” a tale of a young girl’s Christmas Eve gift of a nutcracker soldier and her dreams of their adventures.

On Dec. 18, 1892, Tchaikovsky’s work as a ballet premiered at the Maryinski Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Valdosta’s “Nutcracker” features the choreography of Chase, who studied dance in the legendary Ballanchine format in New York and highlights the talents of dozens of local residents.

THE CAST: Heather Maze, Jay Jernigan, Mary Grace Holman, Frankie Patten, Christopher Gibbs, Bill Abercrombie, Paren Baerwald, Payten Baerwald, Brittanye Blake, Dixie Boston, Landrey Boutwell, Margaret Anne Cosper, Shelby Culbreth, Caroline Dean, Grace Flemer, Katherine Godbee, Kamie Hartley, Mary Grace Holman, Andie Krispin, Riley McBride, Libby McCrary, Tolerie Moye, Frankie Patten, Emily Kate Reagin, Sara Grace Reaves, Emily Rozier, Sara Scruggs, Mary Catherine Stamey, Truly A. Storm, Breanna Strickland, Abigale Tillman, Hannah Trowel, Abigail Walker, Matthew L. Hogan, Dave Ross, Phyllis Childree, Frank Kilgard, Brianna Ross, Rolf Vossfeldt, Becky Herndon, Joseph Roberts, Abbigail McCrary, Laura and Michael Walker, Robert and Michelle Byington Jr., Kamie Hartley, Libby McCrary, Karrin Crozier, David Brandon, Taffy Chase, Carlton Gibbs, Sarah Creamer, Ellie Elmore, Kaitlyn Fender, Kathleen Gannon, Christopher Gibbs, Claire McLane, Olivia MacMillan, Erin Moss, Katie Patten, Savannah Sumner, Reagan Taylor, Donna Dauphinais, Grace Flemer, Payten Baerwald, Brittanye Blake, Landrey Boutwell, Margaret Anne Cosper, Katherine Godbee, Kamie Hartley, Libby McCrary, Emily Rozier, Sara Scruggs, Breanna Strickland, Kamie Hartley Margaret Anne Cosper, Katherine Godbee, Dixie Boston, Shelby Culbreth, Christopher Gibbs, Mary Grace Holman, Andie Krispin, Riley McBride, Tolerie Moye, Emily Kate Reagin, Mary Catherine Stamey, Grace Flemer, Kamie Hartley, Libby McCrary,


CREATIVE TEAM: Linda C. Chase, choreographer, artistic director; Allison Shenton, assistant director; additional choreography by Lynne Brague, Karrin Crozier, Cristin & Jay Jernigan, Ben O’Brien, Allison Shenton, Shannon Thomas and Kim Tuttle; Howard Hsu, VSO conductor; Angelia Moser, narrator.


Dance Arts Inc. and the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra present “The Nutcracker.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6; 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

Where: Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St.

Tickets: $12; $8 for special narrated Saturday matinee performance.

Reservations (required), more information: Visit