Ballet in Montrose
The first performance of The Nutcracker, at the Imperial Theatre in Moscow, was in December of 1892. It was not a success. Tchaikovsky’s score for the two-act ballet was praised for its beauty, melodiousness and originality, but the story itself was criticized for, among other things, featuring children too prominently. Of course, a century later, it’s impossible to imagine The Nutcracker without children – parents are either ferrying them to a performance of it at holiday-time, or kids are dancing it themselves. Weehawken’s annual production of the classic Christmas ballet is this weekend, on Friday at 6 p.m. and on Saturday at 2 p.m. Though Weehawken began as an arts collective aimed at offering classes to adults, dance has become one of its most popular programs. This year’s Nutcracker features 100 dancers, from ages two-and-a-half to 18. The young performers are from all over: Ouray County, Montrose, Cedaredge, Telluride and Silverton.
In the past, Weehawken students have offered three performances of the ballet; this year there will be just two. “Three got tiring,” said Stephanie Wallin, the organization’s programming coordinator. Even so, the young dancers are stretching themselves: the performance will be held in the Montrose Pavilion for the second year. The Pavilion seats 600, almost three times the number that the Wright Opera House does, Wallin noted (where Nutcracker has played in the past). The Pavilion “is a great performance venue,” Wallin said, allowing students to develop a real feel for dancing on the big stage. The performance will be choreographed by Artistic Director Natasha Pyeatte, as it has for the past six years. “Each year she changes something. The performance is never the same,” Wallin said. This year, for example, Pyeatte will sprinkle a few Sugar Punk Fairies – “some hip-hoppers,” Wallin says – into the mix, a substitute for the dancing Sugar Plums. Pyeatte will take the stage herself, and dance the part of the Snow Queen with Snow King Kevin Gallacher from the New Mexico Ballet. Gallacher, a Montrose native, first met Pyeatte in tap class when they were both 16, and soon went on to become her partner in another classic Tchaikovsky ballet, Sleeping Beauty. It’s a Nutcracker legacy. The two grew up dancing the great Russian composer’s works. Now they inspire the next generation. General admission tickets to The Nutcracker are $15, available in Ouray at Khrisopher’s Culinaire, Buckskin Booksellers and Mouse’s Chocolates; in Ridgway at Cimarron Books and Weehawken Ridgway; and in Montrose at Montrose Bank South and Tiffany Etc. Tickets, subject to availability, can also be purchased at the door.
In Telluride: Wine 102
“Equitable access to higher education is a matter of social justice.”
That’s the credo of the somewhat awkwardly titled, but educationally worthy, University Centers of the San Miguel. The university’s most popular classes are generally in business or foreign languages, according to UCSM’s Executive Director Liz Cichella. This weekend, the school will expand its curriculum by one course: Wine 102. Make that eight courses: eight wines, paired with eight appetizers. The enrollment fee is $55 per person, or $100 for couples. An extra $125 buys you a room at the decidedly un-dorm-like Hotel Telluride, where the event takes place.
The evening is the annual fundraiser for UCSM, and Steve Craig, owner of the Wine Mine, will instruct. The only “test” will be of your capacity to tell the wines apart after the eighth glass. Craig is a passionate teacher, said Cichella (“almost exclusively a red wine drinker” herself). “His enthusiasm is infectious. He gets just as excited about a $20 bottle he’s recommending to me as a $200 bottle for someone else.” Last year, the class was a sit-down affair, conducted lecture-style. This year, guests will rotate through four different tasting stations. They’ll sip two wines at each, paired with appetizers such as bruschetta or kobe beef (both will be on the menu). The event is perfect for the holidays, where “We’ll either be hosting or attending parties, and we’ll need to bring a bottle of wine,” Cichella says. Quaffing for a good cause. What better reason to liquidate some of your savings? The event begins at 7 p.m. For more information, visit ucsanmiguel.org or call 970/369-5255.
Climbing Botanist in Durango
If you’ve never heard of a climbing botanist (which sounds suspiciously like a species of ivy), hang on. Al Schneider hadn’t, either. In his role as president of the San Juan Four Corners Native Plants Society, Schneider gets a lot of phone calls from fellow plant-lovers who would like to borrow one of the 1,000 or so photos he keeps of species from the Four Corners region. One day last summer, he got a call from Heather Rietz, a young woman who was preparing a brochure on non-native plants at Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. It emerged that Rietz is the first person the Monument has ever hired to climb Devil’s Tower, which is riddled with traditional crack climbing routes ranging in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.13, in order to do botany. Schneider invited Rietz to speak to a Plants Society monthly meeting, and next Wednesday, she will talk about her work as the Monument’s inaugural Climbing Biological Science Technician. Then she will bring the discussion back to the Southern San Juans, by leading a give-and-take on local non-native plants, and strategies for removing them from where we live. Schneider is looking forward to Rietz’s visit. “I have friends who are great botanists, or great climbers,” he said. “She’s the first person I’ve heard of who does both for her work.” He added that the two passions – climbing and botany – often overlap with a third one: birding. “People who like one pursuit tend to like the rest. It’s all about getting outdoors and enjoying nature,” he said. “And that’s why we live where we do.” The meeting is free, and takes place at Fort Lewis College at the Center of Southwest Studies/Lyceum Room at 6:30 p.m.