`Nutcracker' will make the rounds

Dance: Local renditions of Tchaikovsky's beloved ballet will be many and varied during the holiday season.

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November 22, 2001|By Rona S. Hirsch | Rona S. Hirsch,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mouse Kings on ice and at The Mall in Columbia, costumed storytellers at bookstores and oversized dresses hiding quivering candy canes can mean only one thing. The Nutcracker is coming in its many interpretations to Howard County.

The Ellicott City Ballet Guild, Columbia Chamber Ballet, Howard County Ballet and Columbia Figure Skating Club will lend their styles to the holiday classic in numerous performances.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker tells the story of young Clara, who, on Christmas Eve, witnesses a battle of life-size toys, including her new beloved nutcracker, with the Mouse King. The nutcracker is later taken to the Land of Snow and Kingdom of Sweets.

"Nutcracker is an enchanting story, and the music is timeless," said Caryl Maxwell, founder and director of the Ellicott City Ballet Guild.

The Guild will present The Nutcracker at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 to 16, at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. Tickets are $13 to $17. Excerpts will be presented from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble in the Long Gate Shopping Center in Ellicott City. Information: 410-465- 5270.

In addition to its 40 dancers, the 20-year-old guild will present several professional guest artists, including Donald Acevedo of the National Ballet of Canada, who will dance the title role.

The mini-performances also will feature storytelling by dancers. "It's community outreach," Maxwell said. "We want to go to where the people are because we know they'll want to come and see the full-length performances."

The Columbia Figure Skating Club will present its 14th production of The Nutcracker on Ice at 4:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 at Columbia Ice Rink. Tickets are $7. Information: 410-813-4026.

The 45-minute production will be presented in two acts by most of the 130 club members, ages 3 to 60. "On ice, The Nutcracker feels more festive and wintry," artistic director Pat Muth said.

This year, Muth cast her top skaters in the lead roles, while younger skaters will perform in the second act. "So all the high-powered skaters are in the first act as the Sugar Plum, Snow Queen," Muth said. "As a result, the whole show is very powerful, with a lot of spinning and jumping."

New scenery and characters were also constructed, including "Mother Ginger" with her enormous dress for the Peppermint Canes to hide under and an enormous gift box to house the 6-foot-3-inch Prince. "This year is going to be the best it's ever been," Muth said.

The Howard County Ballet will present Nutcracker with the Howard County Ballet Orchestra at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. General admission is $18; $12 for children, senior citizens and students. Information: 301-725-6250.

The company, which features 75 dancers from ages 5 through 55, added angels, and it added dancers to Drosselmeyer's Minions. It is the third time dancers will perform with the orchestra.

"Live music adds depth," founder and artistic director Kathi Ferguson said. "It helps dancers to understand and appreciate the music. They are also learning to dance with the music and to the music. And the audience really feels the power of the whole production with live music."

The Columbia Chamber Ballet will perform free highlights of Nutcracker at 3 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville; at 3 p.m. Dec. 2 at The Mall in Columbia; at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at Savage Mill; at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Howard County Aglow Festival in Centennial Park; at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville; at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 at Vantage House Retirement Community in Columbia; and at 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at White Marsh Mall. Information: 410-465- 7674.

Of taking The Nutcracker on the road, artistic director Cindee Velle said, "It's a good way to get the ballet out to people who otherwise might not see it. People at nursing homes can't get out, so we go to them, and they love it. At malls, it's just fun to be part of the holiday rush, and it's a break for shoppers. It's also a good way for us to get exposure and for students to adapt to different stage areas. People are surprised but stay to watch."

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