The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are making a special trip from Houston to guide Tri-Parish Ballet’s Maria on her journey through the Kingdom of Sweets.
Don’t let the name confuse you. Clara is the main character in most productions of composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet. But the ballet is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 novella, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” in which Marie, or Maria, is the heroine.
“Clara and Maria are interchangeable in ‘The Nutcracker,’ and we’ve decided to go with Maria in our version,” said company director Wendy Bibby.
Maria will be played by Jessie Cockern on Saturday and Shelby Aydell on Sunday, both heading a cast of 85.
And for the seventh year, Tri-Parish is spotlighting two dancers from the Houston Ballet II as its soloists, with Nayeli Paez as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Daniel McCormick as the Cavalier when the company takes the stage in Livingston’s Suma Hall Conference Center.
“We perform our ‘Nutcracker’ early,” Bibby said. “It also gives our dancers not only a chance to enjoy performing but to relax and enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.”
Tri-Parish Ballet began working with the Houston Ballet II after a friend put the company in touch with ballet master Claudio Munoz. Houston Ballet II is the Houston Ballet’s academy, where up-and-coming dancers train to become a part of the Houston Ballet’s professional company.
“A lot of the soloists that come here have become soloists with the Houston Ballet’s professional company,” Bibby said. “Claudio comes with them and works with the soloists and our company in the rehearsal before the performance. It’s inspiring for our dancers to have a chance to work with them. You can see it in how their eyes light up when they see these soloists, like they’re saying, ‘This is someone who made it.’ ”
Tri-Parish sticks to the traditional version of the ballet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few surprises along the way.
Gymnasts have been cast as dolls for the party scene and in the role of dancing candy canes, and the story’s Russians will mix some hip-hop into the ballet.
“It’s fun for us to mix in other dance genres to tell the story,” Bibby said. “This is our 14th year to stage ‘The Nutcracker.’ It’s our way of kicking off the holiday season.”