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Melding music and movement

Lawrence Pierce
Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stanczyk, principal dancers with the National Ballet of Canada, will perform the roles of Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Charleston Ballet and West Virginia Symphony Orchestra's production of "The Nutcracker" this weekend.
Gazette file photo
Two dancers leap into the air during the 2003 production of "The Nutcracker." The Charleston Ballet and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra first began the co-op production in 2002.
WANT TO GO?"The Nutcracker"Presented by the Charleston Ballet and the West Virginia Symphony OrchestraWHEN: 7:30 Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. SaturdayWHERE: Clay CenterTICKETS: start at $22 adults, $10 students and childrenINFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Don't expect to see anything really new when the Charleston Ballet and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra present their10th annual performance of "The Nutcracker" in three shows Friday and Saturday. Instead, Kim Pauley said the audience members should watch for what they overlooked in past performances of Tchaikovsky's holiday favorite."You can see all three shows and can't possibly see everything that 's there," said Pauley, the ballet's artist director. That's how she planned it. She said she wanted a rich, full production with nice sets and costumes "so you can see it year after year and say, 'I never saw that before.'"Before the ballet and symphony collaborated, the Charleston dance troupe performed a shorten version of the two-act ballet to taped music for audiences made up mostly of school children.At the time, Pauley said she didn't know what to do with the first act of "The Nutcracker," where at a Christmas Eve party of family and friends young Clara, danced this year by Rhiannon Turley, is given a nutcracker by her godfather, a toymaker."The first act is not a favorite of mine. There's not much dancing in it," said Pauley. "In the first act, the story is set up, and that is important. But I had seen so many bad versions, and I didn't want to do another one."
She said she started researching and finally decided to connect the first act with the second act through the details, even down to the smallest ones that the audience would pick up on, perhaps even subconsciously. Every character in the first act is coordinated with similar characters in the second act.For instance, the uninvited, flirtatious guest at the party becomes a mysterious Arabian character, and Clara's grandmother in act one and Mother Gigogne in act two are played by the same person (Ted Brightwell).During the first act in "The Nutcracker," an exhausted, over-excited Clara falls asleep in the parlor. She dreams of fighting mice and, in the second act, a fantasy world.
Pauley said her concept was based on those mixed up dreams where people show up in strange circumstances and strange combinations with others.Changes in the annual "Nutcracker" do happen, she pointed out, because the children and dancers change, adding their own flavor to the production. More than 75 local dancers and guest artists will perform in this year's production.Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stanczyk, principal dancers with the National Ballet of Canada, will perform the roles of Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy. The two are friends of Pauley's long-time dance partner Olivier Wecxsteen, a former principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and Boston Ballet, who will dance the role of the toymaker, Drosselmeyer. It was through Wecxsteen, Pauley said, that the Canadian dancers appeared at the FestivALL dance gala this summer.Pauley said she staged one full-length version of "The Nutcracker" to taped music, and then started talking about collaborating with the symphony with then executive director Paul Helfrich.For dancers, she said, live music heightens their sensitivity. "The symphony is so wonderful, you sometimes forget it's live," she said.In the beginning, she said Bob Turizziani, principal clarinetist, conducted the orchestra because Maestro Grant Cooper had made other commitments. 
Cooper will conduct the three performances this year, which are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Clay Center. "It's a unique experience for the audience," said Pauley, pointing out that nowhere else in the state is "The Nutcracker" danced to a full, live orchestra. Reach Rosalie or 304-348-5115.
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