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Mountain Area Students Dance “The Nutcracker”

FRESNO – The Valley Performing Arts Council, in partnership with Fresno Grand Opera, will bring to life a magical holiday tradition that has connected families and communities for more than 100 years when it presents The Nutcracker at two performances Thanksgiving weekend. The ballet will be performed Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 28 and 29, at 1 p.m. at William Saroyan Theatre in Fresno.

This year’s performance features nearly 40 professional dancers from Fresno Ballet Theatre and the nationally acclaimed Sacramento Ballet, along with 149 student dancers and performers from 16 Valley cities.

Back Row- Ellie Jensen-Pierce, Lexi Kuykendall, Alice Medrano, Front Row- Drew Jensen-Pierce, Jordan Emmert

Coarsegold Dance Students – Back Row- Ellie Jensen-Pierce, Lexi Kuykendall, Alice Medrano, Front Row- Drew Jensen-Pierce, Jordan Emmert

Students from the mountain area will also be dancing in this year’s performance, including Ellie Jensen-Pierce, 10, as Angel; Lexi Kuykendall, 13, and Alice Medrano, 16, as Candy Cane /Flower; Drew Jensen-Pierce, 5, as Cherub; Jordan Emmert as Mother Ginger Child.

Ticket holders can participate in Sugar Plum Story Time and visit the Kingdom of Sweet Café and The Nutcracker Boutique starting at noon prior to both performances.

“This ballet is often people’s first, breath-taking introduction to live ballet, and it’s also a huge tradition for some families,” explained Yukari Thiesen, artistic director. “Not only is it audience friendly, The Nutcracker is very unusual in that it includes so many children. The inclusion of so many children and the deep meaning for families make this ballet truly special.”

In addition to young ballet students from dance studios throughout the Valley, The Nutcracker will include 50 children from Lowell Elementary in Fresno and 30 students from Kings River Unified Elementary School in Tulare County who participate in VPAC’s public school program.

Through the program, the children received free dance lessons, training for the performance and learned about the history of ballet.

“Part of VPAC’s mission is to ensure that the arts have a social impact through efforts like our public school program. We also invite nearly 1,000 Valley children to attend the live performance at no charge in order to provide a first-time exposure to the performing arts,” Thiesen explained.

Furthering its mission, in spring 2016, VPAC will present the ballet Don Quixote and will host outreach performances for more than 4,000 school children.

Jordan Wheaton of Visalia as Clara in the Nutcracker

Jordan Wheaton of Visalia as Clara in the Nutcracker

This year’s Nutcracker performances feature Jordan Wheaton, 10, of Visalia, dancing the role of “Clara.” It’s the fifth year Wheaton has been part of the ballet. Previously, Wheaton danced the roles of “Baby Blue,” a ginger child and a cook. She’s also had roles in Fresno Ballet Theatre’s “The Secret Garden,” plus “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Wheaton will also appear in the upcoming performance of “Don Quixote.”

Wheaton has been dancing since age 3. She also enjoys her school’s drama club, reading and spending time with friends and family. She says she’s dreamed of dancing the role of “Clara” since her first “Nutcracker” performance five years ago.

Dancing the role of “Fritz” is Keira Fay Armstrong, a 4th grader at Clovis Elementary. Armstrong has been dancing with Clovis Academy of Dance since age 4.

“I’m so very excited to have this opportunity to dance with the Sacramento Ballet Company and I’m looking forward to being part of this holiday tradition,” Armstrong says.

“The Nutcracker” premiered in 1892 and is based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” by E.T.A. Hoffman. The two-act ballet tells the story of a young German girl, Clara, who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King when she falls asleep following a lively family Christmas party.

An amazing cast of dancers literally brings Clara’s story to life against Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score and scenery.

Tickets to the three performances are available online at FresnoBallet.org, by calling 559-442-5699, or at the Fresno Convention Center Box Office, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $29.50 to $69.50 for adults. Tickets for children 12 and under are $29.50. Active and retired U.S. military personnel can attend for just $15. Military tickets are available by calling 559-426-9634.

VPAC’s performances of “The Nutcracker” are sponsored by the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, the Bonner Family Foundation, Fresno County Office of Education, ABC Channel 30 and The Walt Disney Company.

About Valley Performing Arts Council:

Established in 1997, VPAC’s mission is to expose children to the beauty, wisdom and truth that the classical arts impart and to enable them to share this cultural knowledge with future generations. VPAC works to cultivate classical performing arts by bringing professional ballet to Fresno in order to expose local dancers and school children to a high caliber of ballet and classical music, thus creating a greater understanding of the classical performing arts.

To date, VPAC has exposed more than 140,000 students in 25 school districts throughout the Valley to numerous ballet, theater and musical performances.

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