Nutcracker by the Numbers

Nine live Nutcrackers plus two movie versions add up to holiday magic


Taking a page from the Harper's Index, let's take a numerical look at the Nutcrackers that will unfold on Arizona stages this month:

Gazillion—number of snowflakes that fall in this Christmas tale of a young girl who is magically transported to the Land of Sweets.

700—number of Nutcrackers Ballet Tucson dance coach Suzanne Erlon has danced in or directed in her career, including a stint under the legendary George Balanchine.

28—number of years Ballet Continental has staged the beloved 1892 ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa.

20—number of years Tucson Regional Ballet has performed its Southwest Nutcracker, set in 1880s Tucson.

11—number of Christmas trees that grow to magical size. That's one for each production.

Six—number of UA School of Dance majors performing in local shows.

Five—number of Tucson theaters screening 3-D Nutcracker movies: The Loft, Crossroads, El Con, Park Place and Century, plus Desert Sky Cinemas in Green Valley. (See movie section at end of story.)

Three—number of orchestras playing the Tchaikovsky score live: Phoenix Symphony for Ballet Arizona; Tucson Symphony Orchestra for Tucson Regional Ballet; Civic Orchestra of Tucson for Dancing in the Streets Arizona

Two—number of political figures performing. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and State Sen. Steve Farley go toe to toe in the Dancing in the Streets Arizona production.

One—number of professional ballet companies performing the show in Tucson. That honor goes to Ballet Tucson.

And now, turning from math, let's consider the art:

WEEKEND ONE: Dec. 6 to 8

Ballet Continental. Go south to take in the work of this serious studio tucked away in Sahuarita. Now in its 28th season, Ballet Continental is led by Lisa DiGiacomo, who danced with the Houston Ballet and the Royal Ballet in London. This year's Clara, 14-year-old Iona Farrell, studied with American Ballet Theatre last summer and will soon move to Seattle to apprentice with the top-ranked Pacific Northwest Ballet. "She's beautiful," DiGiacomo says. "She's going to make it" as a pro. Farrell dances Saturday night and Selene Tofani is Clara on Friday and Sunday. The show has 73 dancers, including three guest stars: Daniel Gilmore as the Snow King, Sam Gay as the Prince and T.J. Roxas as the Cavalier. 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7; 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. Sahuarita District Auditorium, 350 W. Sahuarita Road. 745-3999; Advance tickets $15 general, $12 seniors age 55 plus, $8 students with ID and children. $2 more at the door.

Ballet Arizona. The big company up north has a beautiful Nutcracker choreographed by director Ib Andersen, who danced under Balanchine at New York City Ballet. But the big news this year is a classic immigration story. Three of the troupe's newest dancers defected last spring from Ballet Nacional de Cuba with three of their fellow dancers while on tour in the Yucatan, Mexico, and traveled north by bus to the U.S. border at Laredo, Texas. Before long, all six highly trained dancers had places in American companies. Arianni Martín is already a star at Ballet Arizona. She'll dance the Snow Queen at 2 p.m., Dec. 7, and 5:30 p.m., Dec. 15, and the Sugar Plum Fairy at 1 p.m., Dec. 8, and 2 p.m., Dec. 14. Her Cuban companions, Randy Crespo and Alejandro Mendez, will dance featured roles. The Phoenix Symphony performs live for the 20 performances, Dec. 6 to 24, at Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St., Phoenix. $25 to $158. 602-381-1096;

WEEKEND TWO: Dec. 13 to 15

Ballet Tucson, the city's only professional company, this year added Balanchine alumna Suzanne Erlon as dance coach for its lovely, traditional Victorian Nutcracker. Erlon danced not only with New York City Ballet but also with the Metropolitan Opera, Eliot Feld and Ballet West. Now relocated to Tucson, she says she's stunned by the "caliber of Ballet Tucson. These are gorgeous dancers with beautiful technique. It's wonderful for the city of Tucson." Prima ballerina Jenna Johnson is Sugar Plum and Stuart Lauer and Benjamin Tucker alternate as the Cavalier. Among the cast of 100, four girls from the studio's school dance the part of Clara, the young girl who enters the world of the Sweets—Grace Liatti, Abigail Pye, Rosalie Barlow and Aimee Carrick. Former student Elias Frantziskonis returns from Seattle, where he's apprenticing with Pacific Northwest Ballet, to dance the Nutcracker Prince. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14; 1 and 5 p.m. , Sunday, Dec. 15. Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd., on the UA campus. $33 to $61 plus a $5 service fee. 621-3341;

Tucson Regional Ballet's Southwest Nutcracker is a charmer that subs coyotes for mice, Tío Diego for Drosselmyer and a Prickly Pear Fairy for the Sugar Plum. "It's holding up very well," says artistic director Linda Walker. "It's done nothing but grow"—just like that huge Christmas tree on stage. The 20th edition features dozens of kids and advanced teen dancers. Five guest artists, all of them UA dance majors, include the "phenomenal" Max Foster as the Caballero and the "excellent" Tyler Kram as the Nutcracker. Locals Caitlin Daranyi and Victoria Gregoire play Maria, the Mexican Clara. Tucson Symphony Orchestra plays live. 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14; 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15. Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. $29 and $35. 791-4101; More info: 886-1222;

Dancing in the Streets Arizona. The feisty southside company is proud that six years in, two of the troupe's students—Kayla Lindsey and Alvaro Oquita—are ready to take on the lead roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. Now both dance majors at Pima Community College, they're "amazing, talented, incredible kids," says co-artistic director Soleste Lupu. Guest artist Emily Rodgers, a Maryland dancer who has danced the Sugar Plum until now, will perform Arabian; guest Mariano Albano, formerly the Cavalier, is Drosselmyer, the mysterious man who sets the magic in motion by giving a nutcracker to Clara. The show will feature 120 kid dancers along with local celebs. Besides Hizzoner and Sen. Farley, Thom Lewis, famed local modern dancer and teacher, will appear, dancing Father in the party scene. Tucson Civic Orchestra plays live. 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14; 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15. Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. $13 to $45. 547-3040; More info:; 867-8489; 298-7738.

WEEKEND THREE: Dec. 20 to 22

Ballet Rincon, an eastside studio, stages a classic Nutcracker, mostly choreographed by artistic director Jennifer Neuser. Choreographer-in-residence Cory Gram gets credit for the Grand Pas de Deux. Guest artist Mark Nichols, a new grad of the UA School of Dance, returns to reprise his Cavalier from last year, and current UA dancer Ashley Hammond dances the Sugar Plum Fairy. Gram, who recently danced with Ballet Tucson (and graduated from UA Dance), is Drosselmyer. Ballet Rincon's own Megan Carr plays Clara. 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. Vail Theatre of the Arts, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way. Pre-show caroling by CYT Tucson 45 minutes before curtain. $10 and $14 adults; $8 and $12 seniors and children. Available at the door or in advance: 574-2804;

Arizona Dance Theatre's traditional Nutcracker has a cast of 55, all of them students from its Creative Dance Arts Studio. Lauren Iuliano is the Sugar Plum Fairy and Daniel Díaz dances her Cavalier. Three young girls alternate the part of Clara—Sophie Lai, Jessica Moore and Kelsey Mason—and throngs of little kids play angels and mice. Artistic director Kandis Meinel choreographed. 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20; 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22. Pima Community College West Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road. $25 adults 18 and older; $10 kids up to 17. 206-6986;

A Time to Dance, another children's studio, also regularly features adult dancers. This year's Nutcracker Ballet, choreographed by artistic director Dee Dee Doell, is the company's 13th. 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20; 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd. $8 advance; $10 door. 272-3400;

Moscow Ballet. The Russians are coming to the Fox Tucson with their Great Russian Nutcracker. This company from the motherland of ballet stops by every year at the end of a long tour. This year's 20th edition promises 40 dancers, falling snow, silk puppets and a Christmas tree said to grow "seven stories tall." 3 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. $27.50 to $175. 547-3040;

Movies. If you want to see the old-world Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, where The Nutcracker premiered in 1892, check out the performance by the revered Maryinsky Ballet in the 3D Nutcracker film at The Loft Cinema, 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, and at Crossroads: 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12; 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 19; 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 21; and 5 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 24. The Royal Ballet of London's production at the Royal Opera House screens at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Century, El Con, Park Place in Tucson, and at Desert Sky Cinemas, 70 W. Duval Mine Road., Green Valley. Before you go, check with theaters for updated times.

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