“The Nutcracker” is a crowd favorite and one of the best-known ballets of all-time, but with nearly all companies across the country performing it every Christmas, the show can get a little tired for the dancers. Marjorie Kovich, artistic director at Norman Ballet Company, decided to put her own spin — or pirouette — on the number.
“I just started thinking about it and thought it would be neat to do something that was grounded in Oklahoma — something that was for our community,” Kovich said.
The result is a production now going strong into its 10th year. Residents have latched onto the Sooner State themes, including its setting in Overholser Mansion. Attendees also might notice flourishes that include the prairie grass, a scissor-tailed flycatcher and baby armadillos.
All these elements make it a oneof-a-kind, holiday experience.
“It’s unique,” said Norman Ballet Company dancer Emily Soreghan. “Every ballet company in the world does ‘The Nutcracker.’ It’s neat for us to have a different ‘Nutcracker.’” This signature performance is not just one of their bigger and most beloved productions, but also a rite of passage within the company.
“It’s turned out well and become a tradition for our dancers,” Kovich said. “They look forward to growing into the different roles as they mature as dancers.”
It’s not just a ballet tradition, but a winter one as well.
“It’s become Christmas for me and a lot of the other girls,” Soreghan said. “I’ve done it every year since I was 7, and it’s just a huge part of the holiday to me now.”
Another such dancer is Stephanie Pitts, a current member of the Oklahoma City Ballet, who is in the featured role of the Sand Plum Fairy with dance partner Anton Iakovlev as Cavalier.
“‘The Oklahoma Nutcracker’ has a special place in my heart because it is the first ‘Nutcracker’ I ever performed in as a young, aspiring ballerina,” Pitts said. “I was in the original cast of the ballet and am so honored to have been asked back this year.”
As much as it is a tradition for the dancers, it’s also one for the community. Kovich credited the Oklahoma twist on the performance as a means to creating an “in” for those less acquainted with ballet, and she doesn’t see the production growing old on the audience anytime soon, as new generations are now starting to catch their first glance at Oklahoma’s favorite ballet.