Aspen Santa Fe Ballet puts on ‘The Nutcracker’ with students from Glenwood Springs studio
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Who: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
What: “The Nutcracker”
When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday
Where: Aspen District Theatre
How Much: $25-74
The annual Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) production of “The Nutcracker” has become a holiday staple upvalley, but a new development in the company may inspire more Glenwood Springs residents to make the trip to Aspen for the performance.
For the first time, “The Nutcracker” will include a cast of students from ASFB’s newly acquired Glenwood Springs studio.
In July, ASFB announced it would be taking over the space that once housed the Glenwood Dance Academy after its owner, DeAnna Anderson, decided to retire. Anderson approached ASFB, the only professional dance company in the valley — and the only one from here to Denver — about obtaining the space.
Melanie Doskocil, ASFB school director of the Colorado locations, said the Glenwood Springs studio has about 60 students in a healthy mix of Glenwood Dance Academy alums and new additions. About 30 of those Glenwood dancers are appearing in the 7:30 p.m. performance on Saturday. She said no auditions are held for “The Nutcracker,” but teachers watch the students in their classes to see what roles will be good fits. No student who wants to participate is turned away.
This year, the two dancers playing Clara are from the Aspen studio, but Doskocil has a feeling next year might see a Glenwood Springs student in the lead.
“It’s not that we didn’t feel they were ready,” Doskocil said. “They were just kind of an unknown because they were all new students for us. But they just did an amazing job and really stepped up to a high level of excellence.”
Doskocil hopes the inclusion of Glenwood Springs students will elicit higher engagement from the Glenwood Springs community in ASFB’s performances.
“It would be wonderful if it did,” she said. “It’s a long way to go for them to come up to Aspen for a performance, but having their children as part of the production, they take a deeper interest in it.”
The most important thing to Doskocil, however, is being able to bring excellent dance opportunities to the entire valley with this new space.
“Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is the valley’s only professional ballet company, and it’s important for students who are training to work side-by-side with professional dancers,” she said. “I’m glad we’re able to offer the opportunity valleywide.”
David Gabriel, the 12-year-old Glenwood Springs dancer playing Clara’s mischievous brother Fritz in all four performances, has been dancing for five years. He said one of his favorite things about dancing with ASFB is being able to learn from men.
“I like it,” Gabriel said. “I get male teachers who can actually teach me stuff that men do.”
Gabriel has been a student at the ASFB Glenwood Springs studio since it opened this fall. He has danced in another production of “The Nutcracker,” but “it wasn’t a very big production,” he said. He’s excited to have this part in a production with a professional company of this caliber.
Although it’s been very exciting to have a whole new pool of dancers to pull from, the addition of the Glenwood Springs studio has not come without its challenges, Doskocil said.
ASFB has had roughly six weeks to put the production together, and working in two different locations required some extra organization and manpower.
“We’ve had concurrent rehearsals running on the weekends in both locations,” Doskocil said. ASFB expanded its faculty, and Doskocil was responsible for going back and forth to both locations to make sure any changes made in one group were made in the other.
But for Doskocil, the extra work is worth it to see the end result: blossoming ballet students learning from professionals. And having the opportunity to share that end product with the community only sweetens the deal.
“It’s such a lovely, wonderful thing to have a professional company close to us,” she said.
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