‘The Nutcracker Suite’ sweeps into Newton

Symphonic music and artistic dance have taken over the stage of The Newton Conover Auditorium as The New Art School of Ballet makes its final preparations before “The Nutcracker Suite” is preformed in front of hundreds of people.

Under the direction of Michael and Melissa French, co-artistic directors for the New Art School of Ballet, in collaboration with Reggie Helton, executive director of The New Art School and the Kontras String Quartet, “The Nutcracker Suite” will be presented on Dec. 3 for two public showings, in addition to two private showings reserved for area students.

Not wanting to bite off more than they could chew, the directors opted to do “The Nutcracker Suite” a shorter version of “The Nutcracker,” in order to better perfect individual roles and focus on technique and presentation.

Taking a full-length ballet and transforming it into a two-act production isn’t an easy feat, and Michael French notes that one of the most important decisions was choosing what would fit into the musical score that would have to be created for their production.

“A lot of our decisions were based on what — of the [original] Tchaikovsky scores, which is built for a symphony — would work for a quartet, because some things just don’t work for a quartet,” French said.

The Kontras String Quartet, currently in their second year of tenure as the Resident Quartet with the Western Piedmont Symphony, is collaborating with the New Art School of Ballet to provide the musical arrangement for “The Nutcracker Suite.”

“There isn’t a quartet version of the Tchaikovsky score,” French said. “So, [the members of The Kontras String Quartet] are creating a new version of this score that’s boiled down for a string quartet.”

Adding to the excitement of the performance is a Principal Couple from a regional ballet company in Nashville. Friends of Melissa French, the couple will be playing the lead roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier in the second act of The Nutcracker Suite. The professional performers will do more than entertain the audience, as the students in the ballet will be performing alongside their role models.

“One of the most thrilling things as a young ballet student, especially someone who is starting to feel the fever of, ‘maybe I’d like to do this for a living some day,’ is for them to be exposed to a professional… doing things they haven’t even dreamed of doing yet,” French said.

While the performance is considered a youth performance that will be made up of mostly young ballet students, several professional performers will be on stage as well.

Working together to create a one-of-a-kind experience, the amount of care put into this production is a direct reflection of the passion and inspiration of dedicated life-long performers.

Rehearsals began about four months ago. New Art School of Ballet carefully orchestrated practices, rehearsals and dress rehearsals to ensure that the adaption of The Nutcracker is one to captivate the hearts of an audience eager to see a classic ballet spring to life.

Want to go?
What: The Nutcracker Suite
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Where: Newton Conover Auditorium, 60 W. Sixth St., Newton.
Tickets: $5-$8. Tickets are limited.
Information: Call the box office at 828-464-8100.