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'Nutcracker' comes to Waco Hall, rings in the holidays

Nov. 18, 2004

By KATE MCCLENDON, reporter

This weekend, the Waco Symphony and Ballet Austin will present The Nutcracker at 2 p.m. Sunday in Waco Hall. The event will start the symphony's holiday season.

"When smaller cities present The Nutcracker, most of the time [the ballet company] will use a tape recording of the music," the symphony's Executive Director Susan Taylor said. "We use a live orchestra. That makes this show special."

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Courtesy photo
Popular Christmastime ballet, "The Nutcracker," will visit Waco Hall 2 p.m. Sunday. The ballet will feature live music from the Waco Symphony, whereas most small city performances use tape recordings of the music.
The orchestra began in 1962 and started performing The Nutcracker in 1987. There has been only one performance of the holiday show in recent years because the symphony has to work around the busy schedule of the ballet company, and the 2,200 seats in Waco Hall don't usually sell out, according to Taylor.

Tickets for the show range from $18 to $28, but Taylor said they will offer a special student discount. If a student arrives at the Waco Hall box office between noon and 2 p.m., he or she will be allowed to buy a seat in the upper balcony for only $10.

"We've probably performed The Nutcracker about 20 times," Stephen Heyde, Waco Symphony orchestra conductor, said.

Stephen Heyde has been the conductor of the Waco Symphony Orchestra since 1987. He began teaching at Baylor in 1984 and is the Mary Franks Thompson Professor of Orchestral Studies and conductor in residence.

Heyde has conducted orchestras in 27 states and made his European debut with the Krakow State Philharmonic. Conducting a ballet performance is not new to him, as he has worked with companies from Indiana, Fort Worth, Tulsa, Okla., and Oakland, Calif.

This is Ballet Austin's 42nd year of performing The Nutcracker and their production of the world-famous ballet was the first in Texas.

"The Nutcracker continues to be a staple in many Central Texas families' holiday traditions," Cookie Ruiz, executive director of Ballet Austin, said in a press release. "This ballet gives families a time to enjoy the beauty of art while taking a break from the busy lives we all lead during the holiday season."

Along with the professional dancers performing the ballet, 150 Central Texas children also will be dancing. Leading roles will be performed by Sophia Gutierrez, Alexander McGowan, Margot Brown and Jim Stein.

After the Waco performance, the company will present The Nutcracker 11 more times at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin.

During these performances, certain big-name guest stars will take turns playing the part of Mother Ginger.

Stand-ins will include the mayor of Austin, Will Wynn; Dell Chief Executive Officer Kevin Rollins; musician Shawn Colvin; humorist Kinky Friedman; and The Apprentice contestant Amy Henry.

Ballet Austin began in 1956 as a volunteer organization under the name Austin Ballet Society. Since then, it has changed names and fallen under the care of Ballet Austin Artistic Director and internationally known choreographer Stephen Mills. Mills has created more than 40 pieces for companies all over the world.

Throughout the year, Ballet Austin presents five Austin productions and tours nationally, a huge contribution to its $4 million organization.