OURAY – It’s fairly common for big cities and towns all over the country to put on performances of The Nutcracker Suite ballet during the Christmas holidays, but tiny Ouray has broken the mold and is staging its fourth performance of the timeless classic this year on Dec. 3, 4 and 5.
With a cast of 115 children, mostly from Ouray, the performance is rapidly becoming an institution, said Natasha Pyeatte, dance artistic director at Weehawken Creative Arts, which is hosting three performances of the classic at the Wright Opera House
Local participation in the ballet has grown over the years, Pyeatte said, but when she first came to Ouray and taught a dance class for Weehawken, she wasn’t sure she would stay.
“That first summer I had 12 students, and wasn’t sure if I was going to live in Ouray,” she said. “But I ended up here, and they asked me to continue teaching in the fall.”
She agreed, but only if her students could put on a show, she said, because “it is a performing art.”
That first Nutcracker four years ago had only 50 children in the cast, she said, and most had only been dancing for about four weeks.
“We had a $400 budget and started really small,” she said. “Most of the costumes came out of my own closet, but a lot of kids started dancing with me and it’s been a fun thing, and the community really supports it.”
Mountain Market in Ridgway is a big corporate sponsor, said Weehawken’s Executive Director Ashley King, and helps by buying a lot of the costumes.
“But we still make a lot of tutus,” she said.
The show starts at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $6 for kids under the age of ten; general admission is $13, with reserved seating from $18 to $22. Senior discount tickets at $10 are available for the matinee only.
But for $35, patrons can reserve seats in the first five rows and attend a special event before the Saturday night performance that starts at Venue Roscoe Fox at 4:30 p.m. and then moves across the street to the Wright. Patrons can dine on appetizers and desserts as well as “spirits and entertainment” and bid on a live auction to raise money for dance program equipment and much-needed scholarships, King said.
“It’s important that we fund the program, because the needs keep coming forward,” she said.
Tickets can be bought in Ouray at Khristopher’s Cullinare, Buckskin Booksellers and Mouse’s Chocolates, or in Ridgway at Cimarron Books and Coffee. Tickets are available online at www.weehawkenarts.org.
Peter Tchaikovsky wrote the Nutcracker Suite in 1892, based on the story The Nutcracker and the Kind of Mice by E.T.A. Hoffman. Although the details are different, the basic plot remains the same: The story of Clara, a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against the Mouse King.
Many of the young dancers are now seasoned veterans of Nutcracker performances, Pyeatte said, and the performances get better each year.
A native of Los Angeles, Pyeatte began dancing at age 4 and has been teaching and choreographing for six years. She has danced with the Colorado Ballet School in Denver, with Gotta Dance in L.A., and studied under tap legend Tony Coppola as a member of the Feet First dance ensemble.
Pyeatte has been artistic director and choreographer for many shows on the Western Slope, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jesus Christ Superstar, and performed in the Telluride Dance Academy’s Nutcracker.
Weehawken’s website promised that the Ouray production will be “a deliciously lush production … a feast for the eyes as much as it is a feast for the heart and soul.”
Weehawken Dance will also have a major production in the spring, King said, who credits Pyeatte for building the program and making the annual Nutcracker production work.
“What she does beautifully is put 2-year-olds with seasoned dancers, and does an amazing job with costumes,” she said.