With dancing, reindeer, elves, gumdrops, mice and more, Studio Roxander creates its own tradition for the holidays.
Elyse and David Roxander first staged “The Nutcracker” shortly after opening their Medford studio in 2009. Audience demand led to annual performances — totaling eight as of this season.
Originally a two-act ballet with a score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, “The Nutcracker” began in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892. Based on the 19th-century story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman, the ballet migrated to the U.S. in the 1940s. Today it’s a holiday favorite performed by professional companies and local dance studios.
The story begins at a Christmas Eve party. Drosselmeyer gifts a magical nutcracker to his niece, Clara. As children gather around the wooden toy, their excitement leads to breaking it. Late in the evening, after the guests are gone, Clara returns to see her nutcracker, and the magic begins. There is a battle fought by mice, an ice palace, dancing snowflakes and a sleigh that transports Clara and a prince to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s court, where more magical events transpire before we return with Clara to the parlor where everything began.
Studio Roxander’s performances of “The Nutcracker” are set for 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 21-22, and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 15-16 and Dec. 22-23, at Crater Performing Arts Center, 655 N. Third St., Central Point. Reserved tickets are available at Studio Roxander’s box office, 101 E. 10th St., Medford, by calling 541-773-7272, or online at studioroxander.com. Tickets are $20, $16 or $14, and $16, $12 or $10 for kids and seniors. There are variations to the basic storyline and original choreography. Elyse Roxander, co-choreographer with her husband, David, of the Crater Performing Arts Center production, says ballet is at the heart of the choreography.
“Any time you do a classical ballet choreography, there is going to be overlap and similarity.” But, she adds, “I think our choreography is fun. I’ve seen regional companies where it’s very ostentatious. Ours is more playful. People watch the party scene and want to be at that party.”
The Roxanders try to provide opportunities to participate for students who are interested and ready to handle a stage performance. Among this year’s cast are students with a range of dance experience, including children from 6 years old to teens — as well as adults.
“We don’t just use advanced dancers,” Roxander says. “We use moms and dads. Even my hairdresser is in it this year.”
Inclusiveness creates challenges, however.
“We don’t try to hide the fact that we use children,” Elyse says. “We try to do things that are appropriate for them.”
This doesn’t seem to detract from the overall production.
“Everyone who comes is amazed at the quality of the dancers’ technique and the production,” Roxander says. “I had a man in here two days ago. He came after we had closed and banged on the door saying, ‘Hey, I want to get tickets. I got talked into going to that spring show of yours and I loved it. So I said to my wife I wouldn’t miss anything they did. And I didn’t even like ballet before!’”
Among the new things this year?
“We have a cannon in the battle scene that shoots smoke,” Roxander says. “My son’s into prop replication. He and my husband built the cannon, and we created the character of a soldier who shoots it.”
There are many magical moments in the production. For some, additional magic may occur following the Saturday matinees. After the curtain closes and the audience leaves, the doors will reopen for children and chaperones who purchased a ticket for Kingdom of the Sweets. The curtain will open again, revealing many of the costumed characters, the stage’s set and the show’s props. Ticket holders will be escorted onto stage to meet their favorite characters, collect autographs, sit in the sleigh from the snow scene, hold the Mouse King’s sword and take photographs.
Tickets for Kingdom of the Sweets are $10, which allows entry for one child and one parent or chaperone.
“Even if you think you wouldn’t like ballet or you wouldn’t enjoy it, it might be a good idea to try it anyway,” Roxander says. “We’re a different kind of ballet school. I think some people think ballet is stodgy and only for girls. We’re far from that. My husband was a dancer. My 21-year-old son is a professional dancer. My 16-year-old is going to be a dancer. We’re far from stodgy.”