Final ‘Nutcracker’ of season takes stage Saturday

December 7, 2018

It’s safe to say “The Nutcracker” ballet is the most popular holiday tradition in Rochester.

This year, four productions of the Christmas-time classic have been available for audiences to savor. The final production, by Rochester Dance Company, takes the stage Saturday and Sunday at Mayo Civic Center.

Ted Sothern, who had a 30-year professional career as a dancer with major ballet companies, is directing the RDC production again this year. He talked about putting together “The Nutcracker” every year.

Even after several years, there must be something unexpected that crops up each year as you near the performance dates.

There is a surprise every year. The company changes, the makeup of the ages of the dancers, how big each group is. This is now my seventh year as director, and as hard as you try, there’s always something that comes up, whether it’s a costume that doesn’t fit or a dancer who gets sick.

There are a lot of moving parts to staging this ballet.

This year, we have our largest cast since 2012. We have 57 kids, four professionals and eight adults. We’ve added some new costumes, updated a few things. There’s lighting and sets. We have 1,500 coming for school performances Thursday and Friday, and a special needs performance Thursday night. So many parents help out and everyone pitches in. That’s choreography in itself.

What do the young dancers learn from working alongside professional dancers?

They get to see how the professionals work. They have someone to emulate and look up to. I have four boys dancing this year, and they get to see Adam (Kittelberger) as the cavalier and the jumps he does. They get to see what’s possible. Even if these kids aren’t going to dance beyond high school, the discipline they learn, the sense of accomplishment, they can take that and apply it to any profession they go into.

You do several performances in just a few days. When it’s over, is there a sense of exhaustion and “We made it”?

It’s a little bit bittersweet. With Christmas coming up, everyone needs time. You’re tired, but you’re still invigorated. We have three graduating seniors this year, and for them, there will be tears.

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