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An enchanted twist on ‘The Nutcracker’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In seven years, Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment” has become a holiday tradition for many.

Dew Drop Fairy and Hummingbird Cavalier are played by Antoinette Segura and Kevin Gallacher. (SOURCE: Festival Ballet Albuquerque)

This is where the hard work pays off for Patricia Dickinson Wells, who choreographs the performance each year.

“Compared to the first year, everything is a lot easier,” she says. “We’ve added costumes and added new ideas. It seems like I’m never done.”

“The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment” is taken from “The Nuctracker” – except there’s a New Mexico twist.

It is set in the late 1800s in territorial New Mexico. The first act is a party scene at the home of Don and Señora Pachecho. It is followed by the second act journey of young Maria Pacheco through New Mexico’s enchanted forests.

Dickinson Wells says there are plenty of surprises, including Spanish and flamenco dancers, dancing Southwestern snakes, sheep and shepherdesses, hummingbirds, a lively fandango, and a storyteller doll with children. For this year’s performance, flamenco dancer Alice Blumenfeld will perform the flamenco section.

She says there are traditional favorites such as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snowflakes, and Flowers.

The production has about 85 dancers, 12 to 15 of whom are professional, Dickinson Wells says. It also features a full live orchestra under the baton of Maestro Guillermo Figueroa.

“The great thing is that we have dancers who have moved back to Albuquerque and they want to dance for us,” she says. “It’s a great mix of all levels of dancing.”

As the ballet has become a family tradition, Dickinson Wells aims to have as many people see the production.

For the past four years, Festival Ballet has teamed with health and human resource organizations that serve the underprivileged in the area, to come to the rehearsals.

This year’s free performance is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14. Dickinson Wells asks to call ahead for information and reservations at 296-9465.

“We do four public performances, and then I do the one last orchestra dress rehearsal for the community,” she says. “I bring in over 600 clients of health and human service organizations. These are people with challenges that wouldn’t be able to attend a performance. It’s probably my favorite performance of the year. Most of these people wouldn’t otherwise come to a show. It brings a little cheer to this time of year. We all need a little cheer in our lives.”