Dancers jazz up the 'Nutcracker'

Katherine Cook remembers the excitement of being a young dancer in a Rochester performance of "The Nutcracker."

"It becomes a part of your holiday," she said. "You listen to the music. Your family goes to it. It's a huge tradition for so many people. When I went off to college, I really missed it."

The tradition continues this year for Cook and 93 dancers, ages 7-18, of Allegro School of Dance and Music, who will present "Clara's Nutcracker Dream" Nov. 26-27 at Mayo Civic Center. This is the second year for the original production, which takes Tchaikovsky's ballet score and jazzes it up a bit.

"We have jazz and swing versions, and we have some traditional music too," said Cook, who is artistic director for the production. "It's a blend. It adds energy to the music. It's refreshing, I think."

Cook was able to get permission to use the Glen Miller Orchestra's version of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" music. That opened the door to adding tap, jazz and modern choreography to the traditional ballet. To top it off, she said, "We kind of made our own little story line. We added our own little twist."


In the Allegro version, Clara accompanies the Nutcracker as he saves the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the evil Rat Queen.

Allegro presented the same basic version last year, but that doesn't make it easier to get this year's production ready. "It's all new cast members playing the roles, so the dancers still need rehearsal time," Cook said.

Auditions were held in August, and dancers have been rehearsing every weekend since September.

"It really goes by fast, because they're working for something," Cook said. "They know what the end product will be. They love to be on stage."

As for Cook, "I've done quite a few productions, so I know how it goes," she said. "Up until the last minute, you're taking care of details. Then the day it's over, you don't know what to do with yourself."

That's part of the tradition, too.

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