'The Story of the Nutcracker'
Graphic illustration by Dan Talsky, daniel.talsky@journaltimes.com, using photos courtesy of The Studio of Classical Dance Arts

The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is one that Tess Dimler said she has always dreamed of dancing.

That dream will come true for the 18-year-old Racine resident on Dec. 16 and 17, when The Studio of Classical Dance Arts presents its annual production of “The Story of the Nutcracker” in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s Main Stage theater, 900 Wood Road, Somers.

Dimler, who has been dancing since she was 7, will perform the ballet’s famous Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux with her Cavalier, danced by William Heidi, a sophomore at The Prairie School. And the young dancers said they are very excited and honored to have this opportunity.

Both have taken part in The Studio’s previous “Nutcracker” productions, dancing a wide range of roles from snowflakes and party scene soloists to the story’s main characters of Clara and Drosselmeyer. But this year is different, they said.

Challenging roles

In addition to the choreography being more challenging, Dimler said that there is “so much character that I have to bring to the role” of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her role as Clara was that of a child, she explained, while the Sugar Plum Fairy is the Queen of the Land of Sweets.

“She’s so regal, and (the role feels) more professional,” said Dimler, who takes classes and private instruction at the studio daily.

Heidi’s role as the Cavalier not only requires him to assume the persona of a prince, but — as Dimler’s partner — to learn how to lift her, and do more complex turns, he said. Along with his regular technique classes, he attends a boys’ class that includes strength training. And one of the ways they build strength is by “pressing” (lifting) the ballet barre (weighing 65 pounds), as they would a barbell.


to the future

It’s all part of a labor of love for the two young dancers, both of whom said they plan to pursue dance professionally.

In addition to her years of study with the studio’s directors, Linda Bennett and Marc Darling, Dimler danced the last two years in “summer intensive” programs with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and the Ballet West in Utah. And those experiences helped her to realize that the serious feelings she’s always had about dancing are something she wants to devote herself to.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather do,” she said.

Heidi, who has also studied fencing and gymnastics, said dancing “is a part of me and I can’t imagine my life without it.”

Ready for the role

Seeing their students perform the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier makes Bennett and Darling — who both danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet and other companies before opening their studio here — very proud.

While the studio’s most recent “Nutcracker” productions have featured professional guest artists in these roles, the directors’ goal has always been to have their students be able to transition into dancing them, they said. Theirs is a professional ballet school and some of their students have gone on to join ballet companies around the country.

Dimler’s and Heidi’s roles in this year’s show are not only very challenging technically, Darling said, but require dancers to be able to share the depths of emotion required.

“These roles carry a lot of responsibility,” Bennett said. “And we want to be sure students are really ready to have a role that big.”

Both Dimler and Heidi are very dedicated and talented dancers, as well as “really wonderful kids,” Darling said. “They are also really generous performers.”

Holiday tradition

They will be joined on stage by more than 70 other dancers — ranging in age from 6 to 22 — performing roles including dancing dolls, beautiful flowers, playful mice, the Snow Queen and the Nutcracker Prince. “The Story of the Nutcracker,” as told by the studio, also features more than 150 costumes, three hand-painted back drops and plenty of magical props and surprises, including a cannon that fires cheese.

Through the years, this annual production has become a holiday tradition for families from as far away as Milwaukee, Mequon, Burlington and Oak Creek, as well as throughout Racine and Kenosha, the directors said. Performances, which run approximately 1½ hours long with one intermission, are appropriate for all ages.

“The Story of the Nutcracker” is not only a great entertainment value, Bennett said, but “a really fun show.”

Showtimes are 1:30 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16, and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 12 and younger, and are available online at www.classicaldancearts.com and at the studio, 2745 Chicory Road, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. For more information, call 262-633-4450.


Features Reporter

Lee Roberts is the features writer for The Journal Times, covering a wide range of subjects, from the local arts scene to profiles of interesting people and places in our community. She is also a part-time page editor.

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