A pop culture icon, a Northern Colorado tradition

Bailey Ostdiek, a senior dance major, plays the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.” She sat down with me for a Q&A session to give us some highlights of the upcoming show.

Q: What is “The Nutcracker” about and what is your part in relation to the rest of the plot?

A: “The Nutcracker” is about a little girl named Clara who gets a nutcracker for Christmas from her magician uncle, Drosselmeyer. Later that night, she has a dream where she wakes up to life-size mice walking around her house, ruled by the villain, the Rat King. The Nutcracker comes to life and fights him, but Clara throws her shoe at the Rat King and kills him. In the second act, the Nutcracker takes Clara to the Land of Sweets through the snow, encountering the Snow Queen along the way, and, in the Land of Sweets, they meet my character, the Sugarplum Fairy, Queen of the Sweets. In honor of Clara and the Nutcracker killing the Rat King, I host a celebration for them with Arabian coffee and Russian candy canes.

Q: What can audiences expect to take away from seeing “The Nutcracker?”

A: Overall, in the ballet world, “The Nutcracker” is probably the most famous. It’s a holiday show, very family-oriented, and, for companies, it’s a moneymaker. With some families, it’s a tradition to go, and a lot of people know “The Nutcracker.” I went with my family each year before dancing in it. It gives younger girls an opportunity to dance more soloist roles and that’s nice for families to see.

Q: What about working on this production in particular is different from other projects you have done in the past?

A: For this one, CSU is working with the studios, and dance major Brielle Oaks bought a studio so students could be mentors for the young dancers. We were brought in as leaders, mentoring and coaching the kids in choreography and inspiring the younger girls to find that passion and confidence within themselves.

Q: What is your experience with dance?

A: I began ballet at age three in Florida. I had a really good teacher who was more interested in making it fun for us than making sure we had perfect technique and she created my passion for dance early. We moved to Colorado, I joined the International Ballet School in Littleton, we danced for three hours every day after school, we had eight-to-five rehearsals on Saturdays and Sundays and it really helped me develop my technique. CSU has taught me to respect my technique and my craft. I’ve danced every day of my life. I can’t imagine my life without dancing.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say that I didn’t ask you about?

A: “The Nutcracker” will be a really good show. It’s a new studio and new choreography, as well as a collaboration with experienced dancers. It’s family-oriented and fun.

“The Nutcracker,” a ballet scored in 1890s Russia by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, has become an American holiday classic, and a familiar custom to Northern Colorado.

For the 32nd winter in a row, Canyon Concert Ballet will perform this dance masterpiece 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Center.

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According to Executive Director Kim Lang, CCB is also a school, with 400 students and more than 100 classes per week in ballet and other dance. Lang said her daughter is in the production, making the “magical” growth of students she sees each year personal to her this time.

“Audiences are going to appreciate the artistry of the movements as well as the technical aspects,” Lang said. “The culture is nice and warm. It’s a family-friendly event that gets people into the Christmas spirit.”

Although the story-line is the same, this year’s interpretation is “fresh” because the project has a new artistic director and he expects unique execution of the choreography in addition to the prop, set and costume design, based off his individual reading of the piece, Lang said.

That artistic director is Richard d’Alton, a graduate from the National Ballet School of Cuba, winner of the 1998 Bronze Medal and 1999 Silver Medal during the International Ballet Competitions in Havana and former teacher of London’s Royal Ballet School.

According to d’Alton, his goals concerning this dance are to make the “boring” first act interesting with a variety of new characters, to create professional dancers out of the group. They are eager to inspire the community, especially college students, to attend ballet more often.

D’Alton said to expect a more modern gala in April, ranging from classical to rock music.

“I’ve done ‘The Nutcracker’ before,” d’Alton said, “but not with the talented dancers here in Fort Collins. They’ll be performing alongside some international guests.”

One of those guests is Angel Laza, who is playing the Nutcracker Prince. Laza is also a National Ballet School of Cuba alumnus, with an International Ballet Competition bronze medal in Havana to his name. Until 2012, he was a Principal Dancer at Ballet de Monterrey in Mexico.

“I’m very happy to be here in Fort Collins and to work with Richard and a group of dancers who have talent and future,” Laza said. “People will enjoy this show since it’s during the holidays. They’ll see dancers from the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre.”

Laza said, as a professional dancer, every time he goes out on stage is special to him.

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Center section tickets are $32, $26 for students and seniors, and tickets to the sides are $27, $22 for students and seniors. Groups of 10 or more are $20 each person, and children 12 or younger cost $15.

Tickets are available through the Lincoln Center Ticket Office, online, or (970) 221-6730.

Collegian Entertainment Reporter Hunter Goddard can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.