The 'Nutcracker' gets a New Mexico twist - Albuquerque Journal

The ‘Nutcracker’ gets a New Mexico twist

Maria’s friends from the First Act party. (Courtesy of Pat Berrett)

Even the classics get a New Mexico twist in “Nutcracker in the Land of Enchantment.”

The beloved holiday ballet is transported 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 storyteller doll with children, Mr. Coyote, Ms. Roadrunner and lavish western Victorian-era costumes.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the show and Zozobra has been added to the production.

“The production is showcasing New Mexico heritage and traditions while maintaining the classical grace and family appeal of its origins,” says choreographer and director Patricia Dickinson Wells. “With the last few years of international controversy surrounding the stereotypical depiction of the Chinese variation in the Second Act, I have reimagined this section in terms of New Mexico traditions in keeping with the theme of our beloved regional culture bringing into this scene Zozobra, Día de los Muertos and jackalopes.”

Dickinson Wells is excited to have Festival Ballet Albuquerque bring back the holiday tradition.

This year there are more than 60 dancers.

The Zozobra costume for “Nutcracker in the Land of Enchantment” was designed and made by Larry “Larue” Schlutz. (Courtesy of Pat Berrett)

“The cast is smaller this year because I didn’t want people sharing costumes,” she says. “Everyone is vaccinated and we are being as careful as we can. I’ve rechoreographed some of the show to guarantee that the dancers will be socially distanced.”

Dickinson Wells always wanted to showcase New Mexico’s beautiful traditions.

“We have jackalopes, coyotes, a roadrunner and a Rat King with a cholla crown,” she says. “The classical pieces, such as sugar plum fairies, are still very much classical. The Zozobra character will be on stilts and we have a professional stilt walker for that role.”

In addition, there is a live orchestra that brings the production to life.

The orchestra is helmed by Maestro Guillermo Figueroa, who is the former music director of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, an internationally renowned conductor and violinist, and 2012 Latin Grammy nominee.

“We’re the only production to have a live orchestra,” she says. “It’s been a long journey to get to this point.”

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