Art Beat: The Nutcracker set to hit the Civic Center Stage

Published: Nov. 30, 2017 at 4:44 PM MST
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Since 1968 every two years local ballet dancers start rehearsals in the fall for a show that for many is life changing.

In this week's Art Beat, we check in with the dancers, who for weeks have been rehearsing every night for this Saturday's Nutcracker ballet.

The music, the dance, the holiday tradition.

It is unmistakable.

The Nutcracker - Russian composer Tchaikovsky wrote the music and the first ballet debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, more than 100 years later it is performed all over the world ... mostly during the Christmas season.

Black Hills Dance Theatre is an all volunteer organization made up of parents, dance teachers and studio owners who's mission is to provide dancers in our region the opportunity to take part in a professional production and learn from it.

Joleen Zoller, President, BH Dance Theatre, says "We are an organization that brings opportunity for dancers in the area to have professional experience whether it be learning from a professional choreographer or bringing in dance companies where they would never see them unless they went to New York or Chicago and bigger cities."

For this performance, Kenna Draxton was chosen as the professional choreographer.

She is from our area but spent 14 years dancing with Ballet Arizona and retired this summer.

She has danced in the Nutcracker for nearly 25 years and now is using her vast experience with the ballet to teach, and she knows just how to reach all these dancers and bring out the best in them.

Kenna Draxton, Choreographer, says "Working with the younger kind, you just have to be a little more so than actually teaching them the choreography and just getting them used to that culture. With the older girls, I have enjoyed sharing some expertise with them and some of my knowledge."

Kenna is the first woman to choreograph the Black Hills production and these students like her style.

Joleen Zoller, says "The kids read her language, they just pick up the dances right away and now they've been cleaning for two weeks. It's just really refreshing and new, it's a great point of view that she has and I'm excited to see it."

Bethany has been dancing for six years, since she was 5 years old. She is the lead in the Chinese dancers.

She loves ballet because it takes a lot of focus and hard work to master the art.

As for the Nutcracker, it's the variety within the ballet that she likes.

Bethany Riley, Dancer, says "It's just like a real cool opportunity to see all the dances and all the choreography that comes out of it every year."

As they put the finishing touches on their dances, these kids continue to learn and grow, both in their dance ability and their sense of accomplishment.

Joleen says "The Nutcracker gives the kids, gives them a sense of confidence that they didn't have before and a sense of performance and just showmanship that they would never get otherwise, so I think that is one of the most important things that they could take away."

Kenna says "There's a lot of camaraderie within the studio and when you participate in productions like this you get to know everybody around you very closely, because you're very close when you're dancing."

Friendships also blossom through this whole experience.

Bethany says "It's really cool to make so many different friends from different dance studios that you might not even get to make."

In two days it's up on the big Civic Center stage as these hard working dancers present the Nutcracker 2017.

Tickets are available at the Civic Center box office or online at

They will present two shows on Saturday at 2 and 7.