The Nutcracker: A Dream Realized for Ballet Teacher

By Beacon Staff

Click the photo above or use the arrows to see more photos from Nutcracker rehearsal.

Throughout childhood and into her adult life as a professional dancer, Crissy Tuning always held on to two dreams: to run her own ballet studio and direct the Nutcracker. This summer, she fulfilled the first one by opening up Kalispell Classical Dance. Now she’s watching the second come to life and she couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s a dream realized on many levels,” Tuning said. “Not many people get to live their dreams.”

Tuning has been working with her ballet students since August in preparation for three Nutcracker performances on Dec. 19-20 at the Whitefish Middle School Performing Arts Center. In addition to their regular dance classes, the ballerinas have been rehearsing every week for Tuning’s directorial debut of the Nutcracker. It is Kalispell Classical Dance’s first production.

The Nutcracker was the reason Tuning began dancing as a child, she said, and has remained a foremost influence in her adult life. With that said, she intends to add a little of her own flair to accompany the traditional components of the famous ballet. She likes to add a humorous touch, as well as her own choreography skills, honed over years of professional ballet.

“This is my vision,” Tuning said.

The performers are diverse. They range in age from 3 years old to adults. Some have only begun dancing this year, while others are professionals who have flown in from around the country, including Georgi Rusafov. Tuning said she has roughly 70 students in her regular ballet classes and about 60 of them will be in the Nutcracker.

The older dancers have classes three days a week plus two days of rehearsal. The younger ones practice less frequently, but adhere to a diligent schedule nonetheless.

“All that hard work is coming into play right now,” Tuning said. “It will be a proud moment to watch them take the stage.”

Molly Schmidt, a freshman at Whitefish High School, said she’s excited for the opportunity to dance onstage with professionals. Schmidt has done ballet since she was 3 years old, but this is her first Nutcracker performance.

“I love ballet,” Schmidt said. “I pretty much live in the studio.”

Ten-year-old Jona Elletson, who began ballet earlier this year, said dancing has become easier after many weeks of practice, but she’s still a little nervous – her aunt and grandparents will be watching when she takes the stage.

“And I have four parts ,” Elletson said.

The Dec. 19 show begins at 7 p.m. and the Dec. 20 performances start at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets for the evening shows cost $17 for adults and $12 for children 10 and under. The matinee show is $15 for all ages. After the matinee show, there will be a “Candy Cane Party” where people can explore the Land of Treats and sample sugarplums. The party costs $5.

Tickets are available at Imagination Station in Kalispell and Whitefish, Station 8 in Columbia Falls, Kalispell Classical Dance near Sears, and at the door if available. Call Tuning at 314-1477 for more information.

“It’s something truly magical,” Tuning said. “I’m so pleased I can give (the dancers) this opportunity.”

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