A Holiday Love Story 

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Every holiday season, houses light up with Christmas lights, carolers sing beloved holiday classics and performers spread jolly good spirits in musicals. For the Rio Grande Valley Ballet, one beloved ballet put on annually is “The Nutcracker,” an 1892 Russian ballet by E.T.A Hoffmann.

This holiday season, the RGV Ballet will be hosting its 50th anniversary of the ballet, which makes it the longest-running show in the RGV. Dr. Norman Gamboa will conduct live orchestra for the Rio Grande Valley Ballet for the public performances. Deborah Case, artistic director for the RGV Ballet, explained the importance of the show and how it positively impacts the student performers.

“Teachers see that it is extremely essential for their students to get out of the classroom and be in a real live theater setting; that’s where the show has always been,” Case said. “So, the teachers share with me that ‘The Nutcracker’ meets all the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for the fine arts curriculum for their classes of all grade levels because we have kindergarteners coming — all the way to high school.”

According to the RGV Ballet website, they perform before an audience of more than 7,500 school children over six performances of “The Nutcracker,” two public and four student matinee performances. The two public shows bring more than 3,400 people from across the RGV.

To celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, Case has orchestrated new costumes and choreography to mark the occasion and has another surprise in store.

“On the last day of the show, which is December 11, we want to honor all the alumni who performed in ‘The Nutcracker’ over the 50 years,” she said. “There are some people who are here in the Valley who were part of the very first one, and that’s very exciting to me. So, before we start the last show, I will have them come and take a bow on stage.”

Case explained Hoffmann’s play is “America’s favorite family ballet,” as it touches on an endearing love story.

“‘The Nutcracker’ is the story about a young girl named Clara who receives a very coveted present, the nutcracker,” she said. “Back in 1892, it was cool to have. Afterwards, she has a big Christmas party and invites all her friends and family to come to the party.

“When the party’s over, Clara goes to her bedroom and goes to sleep. While she’s sleeping, she’s dreaming about mice entering her house to come and steal her nutcracker. So she wakes up from her dream, and she can’t find her nutcracker. Then the nutcracker, at some point, changes and transforms into a handsome prince.”

What makes the performance remarkable is the student’s dedication to putting on a great show.

“It’s rewarding to see dancers return year after year and want to perform in the show because they want to better themselves,” Case said. “And it builds huge childhood memories. Parents have shown me their family photo albums, and most of the photos are of the dancers in ‘The Nutcracker.’”

If you’d like to help celebrate the 50th running of the show, public performances will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.; student matinee performances are set for Thursday, Dec. 8, and Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Tickets are available to purchase by calling the McAllen Convention Center box office at (956) 681-3800.

Elisa Garcia