Vicksburg native comes home to dance in Nutcracker

Published 10:38 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

From dancing the lead role of the Sugar Plum Fairy to playing the wife of Herr Stahlbaum in the party scene, Rachael Townsend has been performing with the Debra Franco Preparatory School of Dance in their production of the Nutcracker Ballet since she was a child.

Now that she is grown, married and a mother, the Vicksburg native still comes home to perform in the show.

Townsend is like many of the other adults who participate in the ballet — it is all about family.

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Her father, Dr. Paul Ballard has performed the role of Herr Drosselmeyer for many years, and after marrying, Townsend’s husband, Trent decided he would become part of the show, and now 4-year-old son Blake has a role.

“Blake is actually one of the children in the party scene this year,” Townsend said, adding that he started out on the stage as a baby.

“It just wouldn’t feel like Christmas if we didn’t do the Nutcracker,” Townsend said.

The Ballard-Townsend clan is not the only family with three-generations participating in the DFD studio’s performance of the Nutcracker — Leigh Jolly has performed in the ballet as well as all three of her sons, and her father, Randy Jolly created all the scenery for the production, and he works back stage during the show.

Nalini Latorre another adult performer in the Nutcracker began dancing in Franco’s production after moving to Vicksburg in 1994 and has continued to perform.

“I came to work at ERDC in 94. I used to dance and I was trying to find a place where I could work and keep in shape and everybody told me this was the best place to come,” Latorre said.

Latorre was mistaken as just another teen in the group by the other students at first, but

Franco knew her new student had had formal training before moving to Vicksburg and asked if she would dance in the Nutcracker.

“I did the Spanish dance, and I danced in Waltz of the Flowers. It was the first time I had put on point shoes in I don’t know how many years!” Latorre laughed.

Because of work and pregnancy, however, Latorre took a break from dancing in the local production, but returned about ten years ago to perform now with her husband, Carlos and daughter Alana.

The DFD studio offers a Nutcracker performance every other year, and Latorre said she thought this would be the fourth year her family has participated.

“It is a community tradition and everybody comes together. You meet people that you otherwise would not know, and it is wonderful. It is family oriented, and it really instigates that feeling of family with everybody that dances here, ” she said.

In addition to family participation on the stage, Franco said family members also volunteer to help set up and take down the show.

“The family members do almost all of it. They decorate the lobby and the daddies transport all the sets from storage to the theatre and then transport it back after the final performance,” Franco said.

“For the most part everybody pitches in and helps. I couldn’t do it without them,” Franco said.

Two performances of the Nutcracker will be offered with the first beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Parkside Playhouse Theatre, 101 Iowa Ave.

A matinée performance is scheduled for Sunday, and it will begin at 2 p.m.

Reserved seating tickets are $10 and are available at the studio, 3420 Wisconsin Ave. No. 2 or at the door.

For more information, call 601-638-7282.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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