On Dec. 11-12 at 8 p.m. the dance theater stage at Sam Houston State University will be transformed to the ethereal land of the Sugar Plum Fairy as the Department of Theatre and Dance presents Act II of this classic Christmas dance composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The 40-minute production, which will include many of the ballet's most loved divertissements, or short dances, is a prelude to what Dana Nicolay, coordinator of SHSU's dance program, hopes will become a Huntsville holiday tradition.
Plans to present the entire "Nutcracker" in a community-wide production next year are already well under way, he said.
"We have been looking for ways to build an audience for dance here in Huntsville," explained Nicolay, who not only choreographed this year's production, but will also dance the role of the Nutcracker Prince.
"We are trying to build a bridge into the community by presenting a piece that's really accessible, that's very entertaining and doesn't require enormous dance background to understand."
The SHSU production starts with a "storybook summary" of Act I which begins on Christmas Eve when a little girl, Maria receives a nutcracker for her mysterious Godfather Drosselmyer. Jealous of Maria's unique toy, her brother breaks it and the distressed Maria falls asleep in her godfather's arms.
While asleep, Maria dreams of the Nutcracker Prince and a exciting battle against the Mouse King and his minions. The scene ends as Maria departs with the Nutcracker Prince to Fairyland, the Kingdom of Sweets.
Act II of "The Nutcracker" begins with a Fairyland festival honoring the gallant Nutcracker Prince. During the celebration a variety of short dances -- Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian, Toy Flutes, Clowns and Flowers -- are performed.
Following these famous divertissements is the Grande Pas de Deux which includes the Nutcracker's dance and the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy."
Though not nearly as elaborate as next year's "Nutcracker" production, Nicolay said Act II alone "is a fairly large undertaking."
In all, approximately 25 SHSU students will perform in this year's "Nutcracker" sampling and many more will assist as stage hands and production crew.
The Nutcracker role is not new to Nicolay, he played the fantasy prince in a Royal Winnipeg Ballet production and for the Kingwood Dance Theatre here in Texas.
Tiffany DeValve, a seasoned dancer who's currently living in Huntsville, will perform the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Though not a student at SHSU, DeValve has been auditing one of Nicolay's ballet classes.
The role of Marie, the little girl whose dream weaves the story in Act II, will be played by sophomore dance major Sandy Saucedo.
Nicolay said the dance theater, located in Academic Building 3 on the SHSU campus, will facilitate a well produced presentation.
"Our theater is kind of informal, but we do have a modicum of lighting equipment and we'll have some sets and props so the audience can anticipate a nice ballet experience."
For ticket information on SHSU's holiday performance of Act II of "The Nutcracker Ballet" call Gail at 294-1875.