Sugarplum fairies float across the stage in effortless grace as Provo Civic Ballet's "The Nutcracker" shares the classic tale of a girl lost in an enchanted toy world.
The Covey Center for the Arts hosts an evening of holiday cheer when the community ballet company performs Friday and Saturday under the direction of Jennie Creer-King. Company members are aspiring young artists between the ages of 11 and 19, who worked with special guest mentors on this production from renowned Utah-based ballet company Ballet West.
Creer-King founded the Provo Civic Ballet in 2009 to help prepare young dancers to enter university-level performing arts programs and to develop their talent to compete professionally. A challenge in putting this production together was meeting tight time constraints. The company began rehearsing the first week of September even though most "Nutcracker" performances are in December.
"We're not in the studio a huge amount of hours," Creer-King said. "I try to juggle enough time so they're able to do family activities or they're able to get homework done. It's always a time constraint especially pulling it together after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving."
Former company members from Ballet West coached students during rehearsals which gave the young artists the opportunity to collaborate with real professionals. Mikaela Cook, 17, a senior at Orem High School, plays a sugarplum fairy in the show, and has been with Provo Civic Ballet since before high school. "The Nutcracker" will be her final appearance in the ballet group before she graduates.
Cook has been dancing for longer than she can remember and seriously began studying ballet when she was 8 years old. She said dancing is more than a hobby or something to fill her time.
"It's not something I do. It is my life," Cook said.
After years of training, she enjoys performing on stage and literally seeing the fruits of her labors. Developing the physical endurance required to dance ballet was her greatest challenge in growing as an artist.
"It takes years and years of training and working through every muscle in your body to make yourself look the part," Cook said.
She said mastering an art form tests an artist's commitment to the craft. She shares her wisdom to aspiring artists who become discouraged.
"Sometimes you just get burned out. You want to just quit or you want to be with your friends and focus on something else," Cook said, "but when you look deep down you really find out that you love it. And it's through those hard times that you learn who you really are and what you can really do -- that's where progress takes place."
During the party scene, the Christmas tree grows to an enormous height and the gifts change in size. Masterful set designs and the beautiful costumes add to the allure of this holiday favorite which is sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare. The community ballet company exposes young performers to professional mentors and allows them to develop their technique in discovering how to express their passion for the arts.
"I want them to feel the magic that I'm trying to portray and be taken away with the music, and just the whole experience of 'The Nutcracker,' " Cook said.