Melissa’s School of Dance & Gymnastics planning holiday ‘Nutcracker’ production

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Christmas may still be several months away, but Melissa’s School of Dance and Gymnastics is already working on a special treat for the upcoming holiday season. Inspired by Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” the studio will be presenting its own version of “The Nutcracker” this December.

First staged in 1892, the Christmas staple is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” You probably know the plot: A young girl named Clara (or Maria depending on the ballet) gets a nutcracker for Christmas, it turns into a prince who fights an army of mice and the two are whisked away to the Land of Sweets, where they are entertained by the Sugar Plum Fairy and candies from other lands.

Allen, known for her work in the musical-drama television series “Fame,” wanted to modernize “The Nutcracker,” so she developed her own “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” which her dance academy has presented annually for 10 years now. It features a mix of ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, flamenco, and Bollywood dance.

Melissa Craddock, owner of Melissa’s Dance and Gymnastics, has watched Allen’s production every year and last December she and her fellow teacher, Tabitha Rangel, decided they wanted to put something together this year.

“We decided to do our own twist and our own version of ‘The Nutcracker’ and if it’s a success then we’ll be doing it annually every year for the community,” Craddock said.

For her show, when the Nutcracker comes to life and he and Clara visit various countries and places instead of doing all ballet like “The Nutcracker,” one of the places they might visit would be the Rainforest or Mystery Forest and the scene would feature gymnasts performing as butterflies or other forest creatures.

Craddock is still working out the details but is looking to develop a unique performance that will incorporate all of her students.

While Allen’s show is very elaborate and people fly in from all over the world to audition to be part of it, Craddock doesn’t want to go to that extent. Instead, anyone enrolled in a class at Melissa’s will have a part in the show.

“They won’t have to audition because I think even the three-year-olds and four-year-olds should be able to be in it. I don’t want to single anybody out, I don’t want to hold auditions and say only these people are good enough to be in it. I would like to do our own thing and incorporate everybody,” Craddock said.

Because of her director and choreography background, she will be able to place students just by watching them dance the first week of lessons and because she knows her students, she has a pretty good idea of who might portray the main characters.

However, one character she isn’t sure about is the Nutcracker. Craddock said if there are any boys in town that want to play that role they may hold auditions to fill that part. For those who may be interested don’t worry, you won’t be required to wear tights, but possibly a suit or a nice T-shirt and dress pants.

Whoever fills the role doesn’t need to have a lot of dance background, but Craddock said it would be nice if they had some.

“We could always teach him something that could make him look good too,” she said.

Craddock has already got a good response from people about the show, which will be held in December. She posted something about it on Facebook and has had several moms call her telling her “we’re so excited.” But, as she pointed out to them it’s going to be a lot of hard work to prepare.

Melissa’s Dance, located at 802 N. Seventh Street, will be taking early enrollment for fall classes on July 19 and 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The studio offers tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet, pointe and tumbling for ages three and up. To enroll, stop by the studio or call 970-580-3524 or 970-522-1706.

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