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Annual 'Nutcracker' returns to Averitt
Performances set for Thursday through Sunday
Nutcracker practiceWeb
Left to right, Laura Stubbs, Millie Lee, Audrey Mallard and Abigail Harris rehearse in the Statesboro School of Dance for "The Nutcracker." The annual holiday favorite opens at the Averitt Center Thursday and runs through Sunday. - photo by Special
     "Nutcracker" lovers throughout southeast Georgia can once again join Clara on her holiday dream journey through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets. Beginning Thursday, the Statesboro Youth Ballet will perform "The Nutcracker" at the Emma Kelly Theater through Sunday.
      The Youth Ballet is a local performance company under the direction of Shay T. Morgan. For "The Nutcraker," more than 100 Statesboro Youth Ballet dancers will join professional dancers Norbert Nirewicz as the "Cavalier" and Stacey Slichter as the "Sugar Plum Fairy."
      "The crowd is so appreciative," Slichter said. "And the Sweets Party after the performance on Sunday is a lot of fun. I really enjoy getting to meet the public and have my picture taken with young admirers and aspiring dancers."
      The Sweets Party is a celebration hosted by sponsor, Sea Island Bank, after the final performance on Sunday, Nov. 23. The party is open to the public for a $5 fee. A lavish array of sweets are provided by Sea Island Bank and the Statesboro Service League.
      The Nutcracker cast is practicing some new choreography. And local seamstresses are creating intricate new costumes for the performance. Rehearsals started right after Labor Day and dancers practice nearly every weekend.
      "I am excited about working with the children. We have been working hard and having a lot of fun learning all of the choreography!" Morgan saod. "It is always fun to do several shows, because you practice for so long and hard. More shows make the whole experience more worthwhile."
      This year will likely be the last local Nutcracker performance for four of the cast members. Abigail Harris, Millie Lee, Audrey Mallard and Laura Stubbs are high school seniors. All four girls have participated in The Nutcracker since it opened at the Averitt Center in 2004.
      "It's always a little hard for me to say good-bye to my senior girls," said Morgan. "We spend so much time together over the years that we become like family."
      Harris is a senior at Statesboro High. She has four roles this year: a Maid, a demi-soloist in Snow, a member of the Spanish trio and a demi-Dew Drop in Flowers. She began dancing at age 12 and hopes to dance professionally one day.
      Lee attends Bulloch Academy, her Nutcracker roles are a Snowflake, the Chinese soloist and a Flower. In recent Statesboro School of Dance performances, Millie enjoyed playing evil roles such as the Wicked Witch in "Wizard of Oz" and the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."
      Mallard, also student at Bulloch Academy, is the only student performing a partnering role with one of the guest performers. She and Norbert Nirewicz are the wind-up dolls in the party scene and Audrey is the Snow Queen in the difficult Snow pas de deux. She is also the Arabian Queen soloist and a demi-Dew Drop in Flowers.
      "It has always taken a lot of hard work and discipline, but being able to perform on the stage is definitely worth everything...when the show arrives it's a great feeling to forget the pain and rehearsing and focus on having fun performing for the people who have always supported you," Mallard said.
      Stubbs is an honor student at Bulloch Academy and is joint-enrolled at Georgia Southern University. She also works as an assistant teacher for the 3 - 5 year old class at Statesboro School of Dance. Her roles this year are Lead Maid, a Snowflake, a member of the Spanish trio and a Flower.
Stubbs keeps good grades and dances nearly six days each week,
      "It's all about priorities," she said. "I try to complete my homework before heading to ballet class. If I don't get it all done, I end up staying up late to finish before bed."
      The Nutcracker performances are Thursday through Sunday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7 p.m. There are matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Sweets Party is at Sea Island Bank immediately following the Sunday afternoon performances.
      Tickets can be purchased by calling (912) 212-2787, or by visiting the box office located in the lobby of the Emma Kelly Theater. Tickets for Thursday through Saturday are $19 for Box Seating, $17 for regular adult seating and $10 for youth 12 and under. Sunday matinee tickets are $24 for Box Seats, $22 for regular adult seating and $15 for youth 12 and under. Sunday tickets include a free admission to the Sweets Party after Sunday's performance. Additional Sweets Party tickets may be purchased for $5 through the Box Office or at the door.

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