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A territorial twist: ‘The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment’ adds New Mexico flavor

Festival Ballet Albuquerque presents its annual “The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. (Courtesy of Pat Berrett)

Patricia Dickinson Wells is constantly looking for ways to evolve.

It’s what she does as a choreographer.

For the ninth year, Festival Ballet Albuquerque will present “The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment.”

The five performances will be from Friday, Dec. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 22.

“The Nutcracker Ballet in the Land of Enchantment” transports the beloved holiday classic to territorial New Mexico in the late 1800s, with added elements of the state’s heritage and traditions, including Spanish dancers, Southwestern snakes, sheep and shepherdesses, a lively fandango, a Cochiti storyteller doll with children, the roadrunner and coyote, and lavish Victorian-era Western costumes.

Dickinson Wells says the roadrunner and coyote are new elements to the production.

“The coyote is being built by costume designer LaRue Schultz,” she says. “I had the idea to put some new characters into the production to keep it fresh.”

Dickinson Wells says one section is taken from the Cochiti Pueblo’s storyteller dolls.

“The storyteller is telling the children about the different cultural myths and stories,” she says. “I’m bringing it alive visually with the roadrunner and coyote characters.”

The production includes a live orchestra, with Maestro Guillermo Figueroa, Dickinson Wells says.

“The live orchestra adds an entirely new level to the production,” she says.

With the production in its ninth year, Dickinson Wells says, it continues to grow.

There are 92 people in the production this year, and ages range from 6 through 70.

“Because so many of the dancers have grown up through all the different parts, they are coming back to perform with us,” she says. “They grow as dancers and are now serving as younger role models for the younger dancers. It’s a circle of dance life. They are all so gracious. We have a large rotating professional cast of the Snow Queen.”

Dickinson Wells says nine of the 92 dancers are male, the largest number she’s had in this production.

“I’m very lucky to have so many men dancing as well,” she says. “This is the largest contingency of men, and many of them have continued to stay. I’ve added four men who are dancing variation. We have a wonderful pool of talented artists that need to be nurtured and trained. I’ve seen a lot of male musical theater performers make their way into ballet, which is great.”

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