If you're a professional ballet dancer, chances are that "Nutcracker" is going to be a big part of your life. One thing that keeps the show fresh for dancers is the opportunity to dance different roles.
Two years ago, Ethan and Nikki White entertained the Fresno audience at "The Nutcracker" as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.
Now the couple best known for a 2011 appearance as finalists on Paula Abdul's "Live to Dance" show on CBS return for not one but two standout moments in this weekend's Central California Ballet production sponsored by the Lively Arts Foundation.
They'll dance the pivotal roles of the Snow Queen and King in the first act. Then, in the second, they return to dance the Arabian variation in a pas de deux that artistic director Diane Mosier describes as "spectacular."
Other highlights of this production of "The Nutcracker:"
-- About 90 dancers and cast members are in the production. Many of the local dancers in the show work their way up over the years from younger roles to older ones. In addition, community members add sparkle to the party scene in the first act.
-- Guest artists Chantelle Pianetta and Connelly Strombeck of Walnut Creek's Company C Contemporary Ballet will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier.
-- This version of "The Nutcracker" resurrects the character of the vengeful Mouse Queen from the original E.T.A. Hoffman "Nutcracker" fairy tale.
-- In this version, the character of Clara is known as Marie. Two dancers share the role this weekend.
Taylor Borchardt, 13, is in eighth grade in the California Virtual Academy, a public online school. She has been studying dance at In the Spotlight Dance Center since she was 8 years old. This is her second year as Marie.
Kendra Poston, 12, attends Sutter Middle School in Fowler. She has been studying dance at the Dance Studio of Fresno since she was 2 years old. At the age of 6 she became interested in ballet and aspires to become a professional dancer.
-- For only the second time in the Central California Ballet's "Nutcracker," there will be a new face as the magician Drosselmeyer, who was played for many years by Hal Bolen. Stepping into the role is Lance Casper, a veteran of Good Company Players.
-- Returning in one of the most prominent and beloved community roles, however, is James Mulooly, who performs as Mother Ginger. (It's amazing how many little BonBons can fit under her voluminous skirts.)
-- To make "The Nutcracker" an even more special experience for your child, consider the Sugar Plum Party, which will be held in the decorated lower lobby of the Saroyan Theatre immediately after the Sunday matinee.
Young guests will greet the Sugar Plum Fairy sitting on her throne, take pictures with her and the other guest artists. They will each receive a favor, cookies and punch. There are a limited number of tickets available. They may be purchased at the Nutcracker boutique on Sunday. Cost is $12 per child; no charge for accompanying parent.
Central California Ballet's "The Nutcracker," 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. livelyarts.org, (800) 745-3000. $25-$55 adults, $18-$45 students, $18-$30 children.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.