Performances of 'The Nutcracker' to kick off holidays in Pueblo for 23rd year

Logan Stanipher and Moriah Barton rehearse for the upcoming production of "Nutcracker the Ballet" at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center on Friday.
Logan Stanipher and Moriah Barton rehearse for the upcoming production of "Nutcracker the Ballet" at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center on Friday.

A holiday tradition for 23 years and counting, Sangre De Cristo School of Dance's performance of "The Nutcracker" returns to the Sangre De Cristo Arts Center Theatre, 210 N. Sante Fe Ave, on Dec. 1.

With music scored in 1892 by the famous Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Nutcracker follows the adventures of Clara, a young girl who dreams of mice, lands of snow and sweets on the night she receives a nutcracker doll for Christmas.

"We're undergoing some changes this year," said Nanine Wainwright, artistic director of the School of Dance. "We're going to have new sets. There's some new choreography and some new roles ... If people have come to see the Nutcracker in the past, it’s not going to be the same performance.”

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Performers have been rehearsing for this year's string of Nutcracker shows since September. They began with weekly studio rehearsals and eventually escalated to almost daily stage rehearsals in November.

"A big part of ballet is to make it look effortless," said Logan Stanipher, who plays the Snow King in this year's production. "You do the whole thing with a smile on your face, and you try to make it look easy. I'd say people routinely underestimate just how much time and effort needs to be put into perfecting each scene."

On Nov. 16, dancers performed a condensed "nutshell" show for Pueblo's younger spectators, some of whom may even be future performers.

Stanipher remembers watching nutshell performances as a child but was not expecting to fall in love with the art of ballet when he was "roped into" dancing by his older sister. Now a seven-year veteran of the School of Dance, performing in the Nutcracker each year is a source of joy that has become routine for him, he said.

"There's not a lot of male dancers out there, and it feels cool to be that representation for some people," he said.

Moriah Barton and McKenna Heasley will take turns this year performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Queen of the Land of Sweets. Like Stanipher, Barton and Heasley also remember watching nutshell performances of the Nutcracker as children.

Over a decade ago, Barton begged her mother to be a part of the School of Dance. Now 17, she finds herself in the role she always dreamed of.

"I really wanted to be Sugar Plum when I was older," she said. "I saw everyone else get to do it. It's special to be able to do it now."

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This year's shows are important ones for Heasley, who started dancing with the School of Dance two years ago. With performances restricted during the pandemic, she said an April 2022 performance of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" was her first "actual production" with the School of Dance.

"(The Nutcracker) is such a big part of the community," Heasley said. "It's just cool to be part of this experience."

The School of Dance's performances are Dec. 1-4. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $18 for Arts Center members.

Pueblo Chieftain reporter James Bartolo can be reached by email at

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: 'Nutcracker' begins Dec. 1 in Pueblo at Sangre de Cristo Arts Center