Every year, as the summer sun begins to wane, the Rio Grande Valley Ballet starts preparing for a magical journey that has been enchanting audiences for over half a century.
The visionary Deborah Case leads the production. This iconic production has become a holiday staple for families in the Rio Grande Valley. The dancers, who begin their practice in the summer, prepare for months for the Dec. performances. Their journey is not only physically demanding but emotionally charged as well.
“As soon as I hear the music, I know it’s the holiday season and I know the magic and the joy that’s approaching,” Risa Renee Hernandez, 17, said. Hernandez has been dancing since she was three years old and has performed in The Nutcracker since she was six.
“It was always a dream to be a ballerina and to be in a big performance like “The Nutcracker,” she said.
As opening night draws near, the dancers share excitement and nervousness. Hernandez described it as a rush of adrenaline and anticipation that fills the air backstage just before the curtains rise. However, in the final notes of Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score play, a sense of melancholy washes over the performers, knowing that the season has ended.
“It’s so incredible to see the smiles on their faces and to see how people react to the surprise moments of the performance and all of the bright colors, the loud music and the joy that they feel,” she said, her voice brightened as she recalled the excitement of past performances.
“It always makes me so happy to go out to the lobby after and meet some of the students because it’s so beautiful to see their smiling faces.”
This year, Hernandez has the honor of performing as Snow Queen, one of the lead roles in the performance.
The show is a $100,000 production that speaks volumes about the commitment to excellence that Case and the Rio Grande Valley Ballet hold. The production is elevated yearly by adding new props, costumes, and lighting designs that dance with the music and dancers.
Guiding the production, Case’s dedication has ensured the continuity of the production’s excellence, allowing it to flourish and evolve while remaining deeply rooted in tradition.
“Classic ballet is alive and well in the Rio Grande Valley,” Case added.
“We’ve got hundreds of students at the Deborah Case Dance Academy and teach hundreds of children year after year.”
This year’s show promises to continue with that tradition and bring a spectacle of dance, music, and festive celebration with a cast of 117 talented performers that bring the performance together.
What elevates this production is the live symphony orchestra composed of local musicians. The dancers will perform to a live orchestra led by University of Texas conductor Dr. Norman Gamboa. The orchestra comprises students, Valley Symphony Orchestra musicians, and music teachers from the community. Their music will add a layer of grandeur and emotion to an enchanting performance, making it a truly immersive experience for the audience.
Case and her dedicated team of dancers invite everyone to join them this holiday season. Even if you have seen “The Nutcracker” a dozen times or are planning your first visit, the magic of this timeless story never fails to captivate hearts, young and old.
“People will feel a real human connection when they watch the show. Not only can you watch the performance, but you can also engage with it and feel the emotion of the art form and witness literal magic happening in front of your eyes,” Hernandez said.
“I’ve never seen anybody leave “The Nutcracker” sad. It’s a crowd favorite.”
RGV Ballet performs student matinees at 9:30 a.m. and noon on both days, Thursday, Dec. 7, and Friday, Dec. 8. Experience “The Nutcracker” Saturday, Dec. 9, and Sunday, Dec. 10, at the McAllen Performing Arts Center, beginning at 3 p.m. All tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the McAllen Performing Arts Center Box Office.