But this year, during “The Nutcracker’s” opening night performance Friday evening, “new” was the buzzword for one of Cobb County’s oldest nonprofit arts organizations.
The Georgia Ballet, based in Marietta since it was founded in 1959, has experienced a bit of a renaissance in 2013, beginning with the hiring of Artistic Director Alexandre Proia in the spring. Proia’s resume includes training at the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School and 12 years of experience as a principal and soloist with the New York City Ballet, as well as becoming a choreographer and teacher at dance academies such as The Julliard School. And now, as artistic director of The Georgia Ballet, he brings a new vision and a brand new version of “The Nutcracker” to Cobb.
“I wanted to keep the classical part alive and urgent and provide more opportunity for growth in the rehearsal and performance processes,” Proia said. “But there is a fresh air. The story is twisted a bit to allow for more imagination. There is more humor. It’s a story that will be clear to everyone in the audience. They will laugh, they will be enchanted, maybe even cry in moments.”
Working with Proia on the new Nutcracker is also a new face to The Georgia Ballet, but certainly not a new face to the ballet world. Fiona Fairrie, formerly of The Royal Ballet in London, was hired as associate school director this year alongside Proia and has worked with him to bring a new Nutcracker to life, a task that takes countless hours to develop, teach and perform.
“I bring my French and New York aspect to it and Fiona brings her English and Georgian way,” Proia explained. “It’s such a good mix of old and new dancers in this production and it shows stability, potential for adventure and a sense of renewal that people should embrace. This organization has been around for over 50 years and it is only getting better and better as we step into a new era.”
Additionally, Proia’s big-city ballet experience comes through in his modern choreography with a respect for classical ballet. And his vision for The Georgia Ballet extends far beyond “The Nutcracker” as he works to make the ballet entertaining to audiences who are accustomed to watching classical ballets that sometimes seem a bit disconnected to those unfamiliar with the art of the ballet.
But while Proia and Fairrie focus on the artistic direction of the new Nutcracker, surrounding them is a slew of other characters who help to make the massive undertaking of “The Nutcracker” a success.
There are nearly 125 dancers in the production, including professional company members as well as school dancers, some as young as 3 years old, and the costumes have been completely renovated and created anew by seamstresses and community volunteers.
Additionally, more than 100 volunteers will have worked with “The Nutcracker” by the time the curtains draw on Sunday night. And while the two casts will perform five public performances, more than 5,400 local elementary school students will watch an abbreviated version of the production over five days of nine daytime performances through The Georgia Ballet’s Arts in Education program.
But before the lights go down, a Nutcracker tradition for The Georgia Ballet and Cobb will take place Sunday evening as four local celebrities grace the stage to lend support to the arts and this year’s charity, the WellStar Foundation’s cancer initiative, which will receive a portion of the proceeds from Sunday evening’s ticket sales.
The all-male cast of celebrities dancing in this year’s Celebrity Nutcracker performance include Cobb County Fire Chief Sam Heaton, State School Superintendent candidate and former owner of the Atlanta Beat Fitz Johnson, 2013 Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman and Partner-in-Charge of the Atlanta office of Mauldin & Jenkins Greg Morgan and author, historian and Marietta Daily Journal Editorial Page Editor Joe Kirby.
“Even firefighters get nervous in stressful situations and I confess that I am anxious about performing on stage,” Heaton said, with a laugh.
The public shows include: Friday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 8, 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. For more information, call (770) 528-0881 or visit georgiaballet.org.
WHAT: The Georgia Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
WHEN: Today through Sunday
COST: Tickets $15 to $60
WHERE: Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at the Cobb Civic Center, free parking
FOR MORE: Information and ticket sales: georgiaballet.org or (770) 528-0881
PACKAGES: Nutcracker Wonderland for children, today at noon
The Nutcracker Experience aboard the Jolly Trolley, today at 5 p.m.
Celebrity Nutcracker, Sunday, Dec. 8, 5:30 p.m