Fort Wayne Ballet's “The Nutcracker” will have a few new looks this year when it begins its annual holiday run Dec. 6 at the Arts United Center.
The most eye-catching will be the new “Candyland” style backdrop and set for Act 2 of the ballet, where Clara is whisked off to the land of The Nutcracker and Sugar Plum Fairy.
“I think you'll notice it right away,” said Karen Gibbons-Brown, ballet artistic/executive director.
The new Act 2 backdrop and set materials are the first phase in a complete rebuilding of the ballet's “Nutcracker” sets, Gibbons-Brown said.
It takes a few weeks to finish one backdrop, so the ballet hopes the rest of the “Nutcracker” sets can be redone this summer, she said.
The sets are being designed and painted by former Fort Wayne resident Beth Sandmaier, who now works as a scenic painter with the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance in Ann Arbor.
The audience also will see a few new faces in the “Nutcracker” cast, Gibbons-Brown said.
Caitlin Quinn and Ernesto Lea Place have joined the ballet's professional company for this season, and they will have prominent roles in “The Nutcracker,” Gibbons-Brown said.
Quinn will play the Snow Queen and Lea Place the Snow Cavalier in some of this season's “Nutcracker” performances. In some others, she will be the Sugar Plum Fairy and he will be the Sugar Plum Cavalier.
Fort Wayne Ballet professional veterans Lucia Rogers and David Ingram also will dance in the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Sugar Plum Cavalier, Gibbons-Brown said.
In addition, guest artist Gavin McNally, who grew up in Fort Wayne, studied at Fort Wayne Ballet and now dances in Ohio, will dance with Rogers during opening-weekend performances.
Gibbons-Brown said the addition of Quinn and Lea Place are part of the ballet's strategic plan to increase the size of its corps of professional dancers. Having a larger professional corps will give the ballet more options in what it can perform and also will allow it to do more outreach and community events.
This year's “Nutcracker” performances also includes all four students enrolled in the dance degree programs offered through a partnership between Fort Wayne Ballet and University of Saint Francis.
Students in the program, which began this school year, can earn either a four-year bachelor's degree in fine arts or a two-year associate's degree of arts in dance. Fort Wayne Ballet provides the dance instruction.