‘Nutcracker’ will be yearly event

<p class="indent">The Lake Area Ballet Theatre will be opening its fourth season with a performance of the beloved classic “The Nutcracker.”</p><p class="indent">“And we are pleased to announce that we are going to be making the production a yearly event,” artistic director Colleen Benoit said.</p><p class="indent">Benoit said the local production stems from the 1963 version first presented by Ida Winter Clarke and the Lake Charles Ballet Society.</p><p class="indent">“That’s where the tradition began,” Benoit said.</p><p class="indent">This year’s production will feature 140 students and dancers, as well as guest artist Ramon Gaitan, who will perform the part of the cavalier.</p><p class="indent">“Local volunteers will also be taking roles within ‘The Nutcracker’ but it’s going to be a nice surprise as to who will be featured,” she said. “The parents who will be featured in the first act of the ballet will be moms and dads in the community who have volunteered their time to be part of this production.”</p><p class="indent">The shows are planned for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 17 in Rosa Hart Theatre.</p><p class="indent">Benoit said the theatre plans to present the second act of “Swan Lake” for its spring gala, which will star prima ballerina Soili Arvola, who was accepted to the Ballet Academy of the National Opera House in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 8 and at 17 joined the National Ballet of Finland and later the San Francisco Ballet.</p><p class="indent">Benoit said the portion of “Swan Lake” that will be performed “is the part that everyone knows with Odette the principal character in the ballet as well as the 24 swans.”</p><p class="indent">She said the intricate patterns and footwork required for “swan stylization” is a challenge because of the precision needed during the 30-minute act.</p><p class="indent">The junior and senior companies, a total 53 dancers, will be featured in the spring gala, which is a mixed program with multiple offerings.</p><p class="indent">“The spring gala is for audiences who have never been to a ballet before who will be entertained by the variety presented because we offer short vignettes of different styles of ballet,” she said. “With ‘Swan Lake,’ it’s a classical ballet with tutus, pointe shoes and beautiful, recognizable music.”</p><p class="indent">Other offerings during the gala will include a third return from the McNeese State University percussion section.</p><p class="indent">She said KaLinda Lejune will be choreographing a show to McNeese’s music.</p><p class="indent">“We also have another piece added to our repertoire done by Jennifer Born called ‘Enchanté’ as well as other surprises,” Benoit said. “The people who don’t want to sit through a 2-hour classical ballet-type of situation can see a lot of different things and be entertained by the variety that we offer.”</p><p class="indent">The spring gala is set for 7 p.m. March 30 in the Rosa Hart Theatre.</p><p class="indent">Benoit said two of her students have received college dance scholarships. Haley Beth Cain is studying dance performance at Southern Methodist University and Cecilia Benoit is studying ballet performance at the University of Oklahoma.</p><p class="indent">“They wanted to keep dancing so they found a way to do it,” she said. “I’m proud of them.”</p>””<p class="p1">Nutcracker battle</p>Chad Moreno/Special to the American Press