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Festival Ballet of N Central Tx

Festival Ballet's 'Nutcracker' turns 30 with this year's performances

Profile image for Samra Bufkins
Samra Bufkins, For the Denton Record-Chronicle

When the curtain goes up on the 30th annual production of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas’ The Nutcracker, some of its dancers will dance the steps their parents and grandparents did before them.

“Dancers can start as a child and grow up with The Nutcracker,” said Eldar Valiev, the artistic director of the Festival Ballet. “When they have children of their own, they want them to have the same experience. This year we have some third-generation students in the cast.”

About 200 performers and 100 volunteers make up the company.

This year’s staging of the holiday classic will be at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

Hugh Nini (left, foreground), the founder of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, takes a bow with Eldar Valiev, the artistic director of the Festival Ballet, performing the role of Drosselmeyer, in the company's staging of 'The Nutcracker.' 

This year's staging of the holiday classic will be on Dec. 9-10.Festival Ballet of North Central Texas
Hugh Nini (left, foreground), the founder of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, takes a bow with Eldar Valiev, the artistic director of the Festival Ballet, performing the role of Drosselmeyer, in the company's staging of 'The Nutcracker.' This year's staging of the holiday classic will be on Dec. 9-10.
Festival Ballet of North Central Texas

All performances are at the Margo Jones Performance Hall, on the first floor of the Texas Woman’s University Music Building, 1100 Oakland St.

“We divide [the company] into three casts to give performance experience to as many as possible,” Valiev said.

He also said there are more advanced students involved this year, which he attributes to their hard work and dedication to perfecting their technical skills.

Guest artists Marta Petkova and Nikola Hadjitanev will dance the leading roles this year. Petkova, dancing the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen, is a prima ballerina with the Sofia National Opera and Ballet in Bulgaria. Hadjitanev, also with the Sofia National Ballet and Opera, will dance the roles of the Nutcracker Prince and the Snow King. The dancers perform the demanding pas de deux and solos in the ballet. 

Both artists have won numerous international dance competitions and have performed with major ballet companies around the world.

Guest artists Marta Petkova and Nikola Hadjitanev will dance the leading roles in the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas' 'The Nutcracker.' Festival Ballet of North Central Texas
Guest artists Marta Petkova and Nikola Hadjitanev will dance the leading roles in the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas' 'The Nutcracker.' 
Festival Ballet of North Central Texas

Other soloists are professional dancers from around North Texas, Oklahoma and Europe.

First staged in Denton in 1988, the ballet is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Past dancers are returning for a reunion with company founder and artistic director emeritus Hugh Nini, who founded the Denton Ballet Academy in 1979. Mr. Nini choreographed this version of The Nutcracker.

Valiev described the choreography as very classical, but said they also aim to keep it “as fresh and young as possible every year.”

“Mr. Nini put his love into this production, and it shows,” he said.

Valiev, who took over direction of the ballet academy and the Festival Ballet in 2011, will once again perform in addition to directing. Valiev will return to performing the role of Drosselmeyer, the uncle who brings the nutcracker doll to a Christmas Eve party, where he gives it to his niece Clara as a Christmas present.

“Directing and performing at the same time is a challenge,” Valiev said. “My favorite part of this production is working with all the wonderful people who perform or work backstage.”

While staging The Nutcracker is a monumental task, Valiev said would like to add more classical ballets to the company’s season in the future.

“We move forward with optimism that we’ll be celebrating many more decades of dance.”

Tickets range from $20 to $40, and can be purchased at www.festivalballet.net. Tickets sell fast.

SAMRA BUFKINS is a freelance writer in Denton. 

FEATURED IMAGE:  Guest artists Marta Petkova and Nikola Hadjitanev will dance the leading roles in the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas' The Nutcracker. This year's staging of the holiday classic will be at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10. (Courtesy photo/Bruce Davis)