The NutcrackerLocal dancers featured at three productions of Christmas classic

Published 10:00 pm Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Moscow Ballet Company will perform in Jackson at Thalia Mara Hall, and local ballerinas will be dancing alongside the seasoned professionals as they make their debut in the 20th Anniversary production of “The Great Russian Nutcracker.”

Two groups also have scheduled Vicksburg performances of the popular Christmas classic giving the dancers multiple chances to mingle with sugar plum fairies and mouse kings.

Auditions for the “Great Russian Nutcracker” were in September. Twelve Vicksburg students made the cut and have been rehearsing for the performance, which is scheduled for Nov. 21.

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Natalie Clanton and Hannah Griffith said the auditions consisted of variations of dance pieces from ballet.

Each girl will dance in two of the production numbers.

Natalie is the 11-year-old daughter of Scott and Ginny Clanton, and Hannah is the 13-year-old daughter of Joey and Tammy Griffith.

The auditions were conducted by Natasha Miroshnyk, a representative from the Moscow Ballet.

Miroshnyk said she has been dancing all her life and along with performing a solo in the “Great Russian Nutcracker” performance, she serves as a liaison for the ballet company as it travels throughout the U.S. and Canada.

She said auditions are for ages 7 to 18 and explained that the Moscow Ballet Company consists of west and east companies that perform in the respective areas of the country.

Miroshnyk said she is the representative of the ballet company that covers the eastern portion of the U.S.

“I like traveling, I like shopping, I like the food, I like everything,” said Miroshnyk about her experiences as she travels from city to city.

The eastern company performs about 55 shows in two months.

Rehearsals for the local dancers have been at the Debra Franco Dance studio in Vicksburg and a dress rehearsal is scheduled the morning of the performance, in Jackson.

Costumes for the dancers will be provided by the Russian Moscow Ballet company.

The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at

Two local dance studios will also offer their versions of “The Nutcracker” in December.

Valerie Atwood, owner of Vicksburg Dance Studio, said her entire studio participates in the annual performance.

“We have been performing “The Nutcracker” for about 17 years,” Atwood said. “I like to do “The Nutcracker,” it sets off the season and the kids look forward to it.”

Atwood said along with the traditional version of the ballet the second act will include some nontraditional dances, including a couple of Christmas hip-hop dances.

This year, Atwood said, Caton Blackburn will play the lead role of Clara, the young girl who dreams of a nutcracker prince, a fierce battle against a mouse king and a land of sweets.

Blackburn is 9 years old and the daughter of Jeb and Melissa Blackburn.

Atwood said scenery for her production is designed and painted by her brother, Don McVan Jr.. and the performance is planned for 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at Warren Central High School. Tickets are $10.

The Debra Franco Dance Studio has scheduled two performances of “The Nutcracker,” an evening performance on Dec. 15 and a matinee for Dec. 16 at Parkside Playhouse.

Franco said local artist Randy Jolly helps transform the stage with his set designs and many other volunteers help with the production.

Parents of students, past dancers and locals interested in being part of a live production will participate in the first act of the production, Franco said.

“This gives persons that would never have had an opportunity to act with live music and dance the chance to participate in a production that includes art, dance and music,” she said.

This year one of Franco’s senior dancers, Marneicha Wilson, 16 and the daughter of Marnique Wilson, will dance the part of the sugar plum fairy.

“Since I was 2, I was in “The Nutcracker,” Marneicha said. “And I always wanted to be the sugar plum fairy,” she said.

Marneicha’s dance will include a pas de deux with Tony Newman, who is from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company in Canada and performs in more than 29 “Nutcracker” performances during the holiday season. The musical score for the “The Nutcracker Suite” was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is probably one of the best-known musical pieces.

Tickets for the performances are $10.

For more information on the “Nutcracker” performance by the Vicksburg Dance Studio, call 601-636-9389 and for the Debra Franco Dance Studio, call 601-638-7282.