Just how much does Alison Stroming's mom love Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre's version of "The Nutcracker"?
"Well, my mother doesn't come see me in the other 'Nutcrackers' I dance in, but she travels to Baton Rouge to watch me in this one," Stroming says.
And that's no small trip across town. Stroming's mother lives 1,800 miles away in Los Angeles. Stroming, herself, is also willing to go the distance, coming from her home in New York to dance the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker — A Tale From The Bayou."
The ballet will be performed four times on Dec. 16-17 in the Raising Cane's River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.
"I've danced in a lot of productions of 'The Nutcracker' during the holidays, but Baton Rouge's is my absolute favorite," Stroming says. "It's so different. I love the cute story that it tells, which makes it so special."
This is Stoming's third time in the ballet, which will bring her mother to Baton Rouge for the third time to watch it.
"She loves it," Stroming says. "This is her favorite, too, and afterward, I'll be going home with her for the Christmas holidays."
But, before she leaves town, Stroming will perform the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" when Maria dreams her way out of the bayou into the Nutcracker's magical world.
It's that setting down on a Louisiana bayou that makes Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre's version of the classic tale special. It's where a young girl named Maria listens to Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" on a wind-up record player.
Maria is suddenly launched into a dazzling party scene, where she receives a nutcracker as a Christmas gift from her Uncle Dosselmeyer. Company dancers, along with some 300 area children, aid in the adventure, taking Maria on a magical ride to Oak Alley and the stained glass radiance of Baton Rouge's own castle, the Old State Capitol.
But is the magic real? The answer is found in a surprise ending.
The show was created in 1992 by Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre's co-artistic directors Molly Buchmann and Sharon Mathews. They have filled the stage with dancers and special effects, and they make the audience part of the action when snow floats down on them during intermission.
"This production is gorgeous," Stroming says. "I love the backdrops with the live oaks."
Stroming, who began her formal ballet training at age 9, is in her fourth year as a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York. She has toured Europe as a member of the American Ballet Theater II and this past fall could be seen dancing across Times Square billboards for American Eagle’s "I Can!" campaign.
Also returning to Baton Rouge in the role of the Cavalier is Australian native Aaron Smyth, who has danced with American Ballet Theatre II. Smyth's credits also include The Royal Ballet in London and The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. He's currently performing on London’s West End in Christopher’s Wheeldon’s "An American in Paris."
"Even though you know the ballet, each production is different, because you're dancing with a different partner," Stroming says. "Aaron and I have danced in this production in Baton Rouge before, but we'll still meet before the production and go through to make changes that can accommodate our performance."
But Smyth won't be the only dancer with whom Stroming will be reconnecting.
"I've gotten to know some of the company dancers, and I look for them every year," she says. "And Molly and Sharon are the sweetest people."
The show also is accompanied by the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, which, for Stroming, is the icing on the cake.
"It makes all the difference when you have a live orchestra," she says. "It's a nice twist on this 'Nutcracker.' ”
“Not only is our 'Tale from the Bayou' a fully produced theater experience with professional artists, live music and stunning special effects,” Buchmann adds. “It’s also a fun and festive way to support local artists, musicians and dancers in your community.”
The Nutcracker — A Tale From The Bayou
A Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre Louisiana-themed production of Tchiakovsky's classic ballet.
WHEN: 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 16-17.
WHERE: Raising Cane's River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts, 220, St. Louis St.
TICKETS/INFO: $25-$58. (225) 766-8379 or batonrougeballet.org