St. Louis Ballet to perform its version of "The Nutcracker" at MU

Friday, December 4, 2009 | 4:11 p.m. CST; updated 11:52 a.m. CST, Saturday, December 5, 2009

COLUMBIA - The St. Louis Ballet, a mix of dancers, directors and choreographers under the lead of internationally recognized Artistic Director Gen Horiuchi, is performing its rendition of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” on Saturday as part of the University Concert Series

There will be two performances, one at 2 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. in Jesse Auditorium.


What: St. Louis Ballet presents "The Nutcracker" 

When: 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 5

Where: Jesse Auditorium

Tickets: $14-$28

Tchaikovsky’s whimsical ballet has been associated with the holiday season since its debut in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892. 

“Gen [Horiuchi] based a lot of his ‘Nutcracker’ choreography on George Balanchine’s version for the New York City Ballet,” said Joey Neal, manager of operations for the St. Louis Ballet. 

Horiuchi, originally from Tokyo, Japan, worked under Balanchine in New York after he won the international ballet competition, Prix de Lausanne, in 1980. 

Yet, he added many of his own ideas to Balanchine’s interpretation, including a change in setting. Horiuchi placed the location of the play in early 19th century St. Louis, around the time of the 1904 World’s Fair, instead of England.

He is known for working closely with each of the artists, and he alters the dances to match their strengths. 

“Every year, he tweaks the choreography a bit and makes a few changes to fit the specific dancers,” Neal said. “Mr. Horiuchi is very good at bringing out all of the individual talents between the different performers.” 

Neal mentioned that there is quite a wide mix of nationalities represented in the St. Louis Ballet company.

“We have a dancer from Mexico, one from Korea, another one from Texas — there are really dancers from all over the world,” Neal said. “There are two Sugar Plum Fairies this year. Tanya Strautmann and Mana Takada, a dancer from Japan, both dance the role beautifully.” 

This is the third consecutive year the St. Louis Ballet has debuted its seasonal “Nutcracker” performance in Columbia. 

“The whole idea of the dance itself is that the dancers want to be on stage,” Neal said. “They work six days a week, and the best part of dancing is taking the stage and performing for an audience. There is no greater feeling for a dancer.” 

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