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Classic story: 'Nutcracker' comes to the stage this weekend

Special Photo. Dancers with the Northeast Atlanta Ballet perform in "The Nutcracker."  The classic story of a wooden toy that comes to life in a child's dream will play out on the Performing Arts Center stage in Duluth this weekend.

Special Photo. Dancers with the Northeast Atlanta Ballet perform in "The Nutcracker." The classic story of a wooden toy that comes to life in a child's dream will play out on the Performing Arts Center stage in Duluth this weekend.

Cannon fire will herald the Northeast Atlanta Ballet's annual holiday production, a tradition now spanning 13 years.

The classic story of a wooden toy that comes to life in a child's dream will play out on the Performing Arts Center stage in Duluth this weekend as menacing mice battling an army of toy soldiers and dancing dew drops in the Land of Sweets kick off the holiday season in "The Nutcracker."

• What: The Northeast Atlanta Ballet's "The Nutcracker"

• When: 2 p.m. Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

• Where: Performing Arts Center at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf

Parkway in Duluth

• Cost: $12 to $15 in advance and $15 to $18 at the door

• For more information: Call 770-921-7277 or visit www.northeastatlantaballet.org

In addition to the new firing cannon, set pieces from previous years' productions have been replaced and all-new costumes have been designed for the battle scene, as well new tutus for both the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy. Dancing bears and even more toys have been added to the opening party scene.

"It's really going to be our best production ever," said Jennifer Gordon, artistic director for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet.

Five dancers — Shannon O'Reilly, Rachel Downs, Emma Button, Julie Davis and Mackenzie Cown — will share the role of Clara during the eight performances. Andrew Conlon and Brendan Taliaserro will dance the role of the Nutcracker and Cynthia Hardegree, Chelsea Elliott and Noemi Sambas will perform as the Snow Queen. The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be danced by Lindsey Blackburn, Brittany Pagan and Shannon Robbins.

The choreography featured in "The Nutcracker," Gordon said, is primarily the original dances created by Marius Petipa for the first performance of the ballet in December 1892 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. New additions to the choreography are Gordon's own.

The dancers in "The Nutcracker" will be accompanied by the Gwinnett Community Symphony Orchestra, the resident orchestra of the Northeast Atlanta Ballet, during each performance.

"I think people are going to be very pleased," Gordon said. "It's a great way to start the holiday."