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Festival Ballet of North Central Texas

Dance undaunted

Profile image for By Lucinda Breeding
By Lucinda Breeding

‘Nutcracker’ muscles through winter weather

Icy weather meant the dancers of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas would miss a few rehearsals for the Denton production of The Nutcracker in Margo Jones Performing Arts Performance Hall.

But dance and theater folk alike hold to the mantra that the show must go on, so the dancers rehearsed in the studio at Denton Ballet Academy — a tight space for the more than 200 dancers — even up to Wednesday night.

Now in its 26th staging, the Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker has held up under all kinds of pressure. The local performance was shepherded from auditions to opening night for 25 years by its local creator and artistic director emeritus, Hugh Nini.

This year marks the first year the ballet company is put through its holiday paces by new artistic directors Eldar Valiev and Lilia Valieva. The couple spent more than 20 years dancing in Russia, in the Vaganova Ballet Academy and the State Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Bashkortostan. The couple joined Nini’s Denton Ballet Academy as faculty in 2011.

The company is made up of dance students from Denton Ballet Academy and other local studios, and both semi-professional and professional dancers. While the company has staged a few other ballets, it is most dedicated to staging The Nutcracker, one of the most popular and familiar ballets in the world.

Dance students perform the roles of girls and boys at the Stahlbaum family’s Christmas party, baby buffoons, angels, dolls, flowers and the guests who visit the Land of Sweetmeats — the Spanish, Arabians, Russians, Chinese and Danish. Semi-professional and professional dancers perform featured and solo roles.

Romanian dancer Alexandru Glusacov will dance the grand pas de deux as the Prince. He graduated from the Academy of Ballet of the Republic of Moldova and then joined the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Moldova. He rose through the ranks to become a soloist, and then joined the Russian Classical Ballet. Glusacov danced with the Russian State Ballet and toured the stages of Europe. He is a freelance dancer now, and performs and teaches all over the U.S.

Melissa Zoebisch grew up in Mexico, where she studied at the Chamber Ballet of Jalisco. She earned a scholarship to train for a year at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. Zoebisch joined the National Dance Company, performing roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and others. She travels the country today as a freelance dancer and teacher.

The ballet appeals to young audiences, with scenes such as the explosive battle between toy soldiers and mice, and impresses older audiences with classical Russian techniques and original choreography.

Tickets to the local ballet’s staging move briskly, and reservations are encouraged.


What: Festival Ballet of North Central Texas presents the holiday ballet about a young girl, her nutcracker doll and a fantastic dream, with music by Tchaikovsky.

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Margo Jones Performance Hall, on the first floor of the TWU Music Building, at Oakland Street and Pioneer Circle

Details: Tickets cost $11 to $36. To purchase tickets online, visit

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