"When the right ingredients come together, it's magic."
As I mingled with the Nutcracker cast, their parents and teachers at the Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, those words from a TV commercial kept playing through my mind. There truly is something magic about the way all these people come together.
"It's like being part of a family. We're all here for each other," Claire Bockhop, a Brookwood student, said.
"It helps me express who I am and the support makes me want to dance even more," Samantha Kaczor, also from Brookwood, added.
Angela Burdick, who watched her granddaughters Cameron and Jordan Silas progress in their dancing for over a decade said, "It's wonderful to watch any child to come up from toddlerhood to become a beautiful dancer."
Jorge Perez, a relatively newcomer to GBT just started dancing two years ago when he took dance as an elective at Brookwood.
"My teacher, Ellen McCollister, inspired me to take dance seriously. Besides, my family is Hispanic and dancing is in our roots so I decided to take the leap into ballet. No pun intended," Perez said with a smile.
Perez is playing four characters in GBT's holiday production, including the title role of Nutcracker.
The GBT, a pre-professional company, has been family to hundreds of dancers for three decades. They have more professional dancers to their credit than any other company in the region. As they celebrate their 30th anniversary, their high standards and traditions remain, but a lot of features are new. This year their audience will enjoy new backgrounds, sets, costumes and choreography. With the retirement of artistic director Lisa Sheppard Robson, Jaime Robtison came aboard this year with lots of ideas for blending the new with the nostalgic.
"I am excited about the new look and the new choreography. I believe audiences will be enchanted by everything our wonderful young dancers show them!" Robtison said.
This year GBT will showcase internationally known Maestro Predrag Gosta conducting a live orchestra for the last eight shows.
And then there are the staple ingredients like the custom of having local celebrities perform as Mother Ginger, whose huge skirts hide eight little dancers who prance out to perform. North Johnson, general manager of the Gwinnett Braves, Gary Gross of Americaswebradio.com, Lisa Zaken of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, Sally Corbett of Artworks Gwinnett organization and Denise Brinson of the City of Suwanee are among them.
And that reference I made to magic is more than metaphorical. Magician Bill Kress, an audience favorite, will once again bring his birds onstage to create dazzling illusions as Herr Drosselmeyer.
People have always talked about the magic of the Christmas season. At GBT's Nutcracker, you can experience it two ways. Though the spectacular magic of a master magician and the subtle magic of what happens when "the right ingredients come together."
GBT Nutcracker performances run through Dec. 18. For info, call 770-978-0188 or go to www.gwinnettballet.org.
Susan Larson is a writer who lives in Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.