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Profile image for By Karina Ramírez / Staff Writer
By Karina Ramírez / Staff Writer

Ballet company to stage ‘Nutcracker’

Born and raised in Denton, Natalia Wodnicka started at age 12 in the local production of The Nutcracker.

Now, 30, Wodnicka is a New York ballerina who will return to participate in a lead role in the production presented by the Festival Ballet of North Texas.

Celebrating its 25th season performing The Nutcracker, the ballet company will once again delight audiences Dec. 7 through Dec. 9 at the Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University.

Tickets cost from $10 to $35.

“For me, it was the beginning of my dance career with this amazing production,” Wodnicka said. “Every year, I got a more challenging part.”

Wodnicka said her roles over the years have motivated and inspired her.

“I was able to share the stage with dancers that were more advanced than me. It was a big motivating factor,” she said.

Now, Wodnicka will offer her talents as she did last year, playing the role of the Rose Queen during the “Waltz of the Flowers.”

Artistic director emeritus Hugh Nini said it is hard to believe so many years have passed since the first production. But now, he gets to see the rewards of the students’ training and also find future dancers among his group of talented performers.

Darci Randolph Garrison, another former student, also started with The Nutcracker when she was younger.

“Now a mother of two, Darci is performing as a soloist and her daughter is following in her footsteps this year as a Baby Buffoon,” Nini said.

Wodnicka and Randolph Garrison grew up together in the ballet.

Now, when Wodnicka comes back, it is not only time to catch up with her friend, but also to join in the camaraderie with other dancers.

Since Festival Ballet of North Texas began performing The Nutcracker in 1987, the basic structure of the show — the story of a German girl named Clara who dreams of the Nutcracker Prince and fights against the Rat King and his mice during Christmas Eve — has not changed, Nini said.

“The proficiency of the dancers has grown,” he explained. “Technically, it is a very demanding production. But it is entertaining and the pyrotechnics of the ballet are exhilarating to the audience.”

Nini said audiences are first surprised to see the level of ballet play in the North Texas area, but he guarantees there is never a dull moment.

“We found that children who are 2 and 3 years of age can [also] sit still and are mesmerized by the production,” he said.

The Nutcracker performers represent 30 communities from the north central region of Texas, as well as dancers from Oklahoma, New York and Hungary, according to the company’s website. The production’s principal guest artist who works with the Hungarian National Ballet Company will be arriving Monday, Nini said.

In 1998, the Dallas Dance Council recognized Festival Ballet of North Texas’ production of The Nutcracker, from among a field of 14 ballet companies in North Texas, and gave it 11 out of 16 “Bests,” including Best Nutcracker, Best Costumes, Best Sets, Best Battle Scene and Best Artistic Director.

The two-act production has 200 performers and it has been known to draw 5,000 people. This year, and to celebrate its 25th season, organizers added a Friday performance.

The Nutcracker has been playing at the Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University since 1989. The first two years, it played at the University of North Texas.

“It has been well received by the Denton community, and we have been grateful for their support,” Nini said.

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is