Ashley King, director of the multi-faceted school, said the annual Nutcracker production began humbly five years ago with performances in the Wright Opera House in Ouray.
But the production has outgrown that venue, because there is no backstage area and the many children waiting for their turn on stage had to be “stored” at nearby shops, which has become a potential safety issue. It also meant they couldn’t see the performance. So King decided this was the year to make the move to Montrose.
“The Pavilion allows that kind of space, and there’s no space in the Wright,” she said. “We’ve been ‘storing’ kids in the candy store and across the highway, but this will ease things up and help the kids see the show.”
Holding a performance at the Pavilion, for a cast of more than 120, also made sense because Weehawken’s dance classes, under the artistic direction of Natasha Pyeatte, have expanded throughout the region and dance teachers come not only from Ouray, but also from Montrose, Ridgway and Telluride.
Pyeatte is a certified as a ballet teacher through the American Ballet Theatre, King said, where she has completed the highest levels of any dance teacher in the state. King said she plans to further expand the program and will offer two dance classes after the first of the year at High Country Fitness in Montrose. She said more instructors will be needed for the new classes.
“We are looking for somebody who understands her vision for the program and has the ability to follow her curriculum. Experience and training are important, but even more is having a good disposition with the kids,” King said. “Our goal is not to turn out prima ballerinas, but to have kids in the program who love to dance.”
This year the Nutcracker performance will use taped music of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, but King said she hopes someday to have a live orchestra.
Many volunteers are behind the production, King said, including Natasha’s mother, Betsy Pyeatte, who is costumer for the entire show.
“She is an incredible asset,” King said. “Lots of volunteers work behind the scenes, but nobody could come even close to matching Betsy’s hours.”
The dancers have also put in many hours of practice. Principal dancers Marialexa Kavenaugh, partnered with Jesse Weaver, plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Natasha Hill will be the Snow Queen. Hunter Clapsadl plays the lead role of the girl Clara, and Morgan Wright will portray the Nutcracker.
Other lead dancers include Kendall Mueller as Fritz, Jordan Leo as the Christmas Tree Angel, Alexandria Ludian as the Columbine Doll, Alyssa Ludian as the Jack in the Box, Mackenzie Gibbs as China Tea and Abby Purcell as the Dew Drop Fairy.
King said she would rather have held what has become a Ouray tradition at the 120-year-old Wright Opera House, and the show may return there in the future after Friends of the Wright Opera House, a local nonprofit, complete renovations.
In the meantime, King says she hope the Pavilion performance will bring area communities together in the holiday spirit.
Tickets are on sale at many outlets in Ouray, and in Montrose at Tiffany, Etc. and Montrose Bank South. Tickets are also on sale at www.wehawkenarts.com. General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $8 for children 12 and older. Reserved seating is also available with prices ranging from $22 to $25.
The Weehawken school will also host a special pre-show party and fundraiser at the Hampton Inn in Montrose on Dec. 2 from 4:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for the event are also available on the Weehawken website (does not include performance admission) and will include hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a cash bar to raise money for the Weehawken Dance Scholarship program. Call 318-0150 for more information.
King said that more than half of Weehawken’s 42 dance classes are taught by Pyeatte, but are also made possible by the hard work of dance instructors Susan Aurand, Faith Cook, Kendra Manley, Amanda Sturdevant, Judy Yeo, and Tess Ludian.
“We would all love for people to come out and enjoy The Nutcracker,” King said.