'The Nutcracker' to take the stage at Popejoy Hall - Albuquerque Journal

‘The Nutcracker’ to take the stage at Popejoy Hall

Robbie Rodriguez, center, as Drosselmeyer in a scene from New Mexico Ballet Company’s “The Nutcracker.” (Courtesy of Justin Day Photography)

It’s been over 18 months since the dancers at New Mexico Ballet Company have stepped on stage.

On Saturday, Nov. 27, that will change as the company will present the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker.”

“We’re super excited to kick start the holiday season,” says Robbie Rodriguez, marketing and operations director. “It’s something we all need. Live performances are back and we’re bringing back some of the joy for dancers.”

The story of “The Nutcracker” is based loosely on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” which is about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King.

“The Nutcracker” features special performances by current American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet stars.

Rodriguez says auditions for the show were held in late August and rehearsals began the second week of September.

“This year, we are featuring a fully local staff of 70 dancers,” he says. “They are fully vaccinated, as is anyone working back stage. The dancers will get to perform without a mask, which adds to the excitement of the show. Of course, when they are back stage, everyone will socially distance as much as we can.”

Rodriguez says “The Nutcracker” is a staple for ballet dancers.

“We have some new choreography and the four dancers coming from San Francisco,” he says. “The show is physically demanding. We’ve been getting everybody back into shape and performance ready. Coming out of a year where we trained solely via Zoom, it’s been a challenge, but the dancers are professional and want to be back on stage.”

Rodriguez has been with the company for eight seasons, where he is an instructor, as well as a company dancer.

“I’ve been dancing since I was 4 years old,” he says. “I’m 32 now, and it’s been wonderful to have dance and the arts be such a big part of my life.”

This year, the New Mexico Ballet Company was awarded a grant through the Urban Enhancement Trust, which has helped keep tickets affordable for all New Mexicans.

Rodriguez says the best bet for tickets is to get them at the theater box office at UNM, or from unmtickets.com, the official seller, and to avoid third-party sites.

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