A Christmas party in full swing came into view and the annual performance of The Nutcracker for Calhoun County third-graders was under way.
The show is an annual event presented by the Knox Concert Series. Patricia Smith, a member of the Nutcracker Committee, said this year was the first time the ballet was presented twice to accommodate all Calhoun County third-graders. In past years, the series had to rotate the invited schools and that meant some children missed out on the performance, Smith said.
The group decided to try and rectify the situation this year.
Margaret Roberts, market president of Wells Fargo and a member of the Knox board since 2006, said the bank has supported the production for about five years. Adding a second performance took some legwork to accomplish, she said. Ticket sales only pay for about 30 percent of the program, so another performance meant raising more money.
“We mentioned it to some of our biggest supporters and they gave us a very generous gift,” Smith said.
The students at Friday’s show were excited to have some time out of the classroom for the special event, but some were unsure what to expect.
“I thought it would be strange,” said Audrey Keeton, 9, from Kitty Stone Elementary in Jacksonville.
But after watching the first act, she was won over.
“I was fascinated by how they moved and danced,” Keeton said.
Carol Trantham, a third-grade teacher at Coldwater Elementary School on her fifth school trip to the ballet, said that’s typical.
“I think most of them are surprised,” Trantham said.
She prepares the students in advance, playing some of the score in class, teaching the students about Peter Tchaikovsky and the history of the ballet. She thinks it is especially helpful that people involved in the production will come to the schools and talk with the students. Before the performance, many of the students were familiar with the story line.
“The nutcracker comes alive and they fight with the mouse king,” said Caroline Rogers, 8, a student at Coldwater, adding, “The mouse king has seven heads!”
The mouse king was a favorite in Act I. As he entered the stage with his plethora of heads, the students let out a collective “Oh!”
Alabama Ballet brings the entire production to the school — the props and sets, the costumes and music, said Tracey Alvey, the artistic director.
During the intermission, Alvey and associate artistic director Roger Van Fleteren took questions from the students about the production. They demonstrated how the company made the snow fall for one scene and brought the dancers out to answer questions including how long they prepared for the performance and how long they had been dancing.
It was an effort well received by the students.
“It’s like the nutcracker is coming alive,” said Taylor Nunnelly, 8, a student at Tenth Street Elementary.
A performance for the public will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. and a second performance for students will be on Monday.