By Paul Hyde: December 8, 2015
International Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” pirouettes back into the Peace Center this weekend, with two familiar stars on stage and a full orchestra in the pit.
Cara Marie Gary and Alberto Velazquez, two members of the celebrated Joffrey Ballet, return to take on the leading roles in the beloved story of a young girl who travels to an enchanted land.
“It’s very exciting,” said Lena Forster, executive director of the Greer-based International Ballet. “We love them (Gary and Velazquez) as our Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier. They’re so good together.”
Gary, an Upstate native, studied with International Ballet from a young age and went on to enjoy a successful dance career.
International Ballet is pulling out all the stops this year for “The Nutcracker.” The production will feature a dance cast of 75.
A 50-member orchestra, meanwhile, will provide accompaniment. Greenville Symphony Orchestra music director Edvard Tchivzhel will conduct. For the past six years, International Ballet has relied on taped music.
In addition, the production will feature a 20-voice chorus for one portion of the musical score.
Gary has performed with the International Ballet twice as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Velazquez joined her for one of those performances in the past.
Gary also performs that principal role for the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet.
International Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is subtitled “The Classical Masterpiece,” underscoring the ensemble’s traditional style.
“More than anything, we really stick to a very classical tradition based on artistry and technique, and very traditional sets and costumes,” Forster said. “Our tag line all along has been presenting classical ballet in a modern world. It’s very close to the original Russian production.”
The choreography is by former IB artistic director Hennadii Bespechnyi and current artistic director Vlda Kysselova.
International Ballet is particularly proud of its colorful “Nutcracker” costumes and sets, custom made by the Ukrainian National Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Kiev.
International Ballet will host a performance for students on Friday at 10 a.m.
Asked what makes “The Nutcracker” special, Forster said: “It’s such an American phenomenon. It has a giant Christmas tree, sugar plums, the fog and snow, and the music is exquisite. No matter who does the ballet, there’s a certain magic to it. This is what people want at Christmastime.”