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Magical snowflakes and soldiers: It’s all part of holiday favorite ‘The Nutcracker’

New York City Ballet principal dancers Tyler Angel and Maria Kowroski star as the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy in next weekend’s “The Nutcracker” performances. (Courtesy of Pat Berrett)

New York City Ballet principal dancers Tyler Angel and Maria Kowroski star as the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy in next weekend’s “The Nutcracker” performances. (Courtesy of Pat Berrett)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “The Nutcracker” represents most Americans’ first exposure to dance.

Many professional dancers will say they knew they wanted to lace up some toe shoes when they saw the ballet, often as a child.

The New Mexico Ballet will perform the holiday classic with the New Mexico Philharmonic starting Saturday at Popejoy Hall.

Dancers with the New Mexico Ballet Company have been performing the piece annually since 1972.

“The choreography is constantly being updated,” executive director Emily Fine said. “Not only are we the oldest, we’re the largest. We have elaborate sets and costumes and pyrotechnics.”

Every year the company hires principal dancers from both the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet. American Ballet Theatre dancers Leann Underwood and Thomas Forster will be performing the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier in this weekend’s performances.

New York City Ballet principal dancers Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle will star in next weekend’s performances.

“They’re lead dancing roles,” Fine said. “You can go to New York and see them and pay about five times as much.”

The rest of about 80 dancers are from New Mexico, she added. The children’s roles start at age 8.

This year artistic director Jolie Sutton-Simballa has rechoreographed four sections of the ballet, including the famous snow scene, Fine said.

“It keeps it very fresh for the dancers and the audience members, too,” she said.

Legendary American Ballet Theatre choreographer George Balanchine cemented the ballet as an annual classic in the United States in the 1950s, Fine said.

“It’s just now becoming popular in Europe,” she added. “It’s safe. It’s an easy story to follow. People go to escape.”

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