Dancers’ Alley to perform ‘Nutcracker’ ballet to live music this year

For the first time since putting on “The Nutcracker” ballet, Dancers’ Alley will perform to live music, played by the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra.

The 100-member cast and 28-member orchestra will perform “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Miller Performing Arts Center, 501 Madison St. Tickets cost $18 for adults and $12 for those 12 years old and under.

Dancers’ Alley founder Katy Howland said the Sunday performance was almost sold out as of last week. People can purchase tickets by calling Dancers’ Alley studio at 573-635-6610 or visiting it at 515 E. McCarty St.

The performance will mark two anniversaries for the pair — the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra will celebrate its one-year anniversary Saturday and Dancers’ Alley its 10th production of the ballet.

Southside Philharmonic Orchestra founder and director Patrick Clark said performing “The Nutcracker” for the group’s anniversary is fitting because the orchestra performed “The Nutcracker Suite,” a shorter version of the ballet, for its first concert.

In the past, dancers performed to pre-recorded music, but Howland has considered incorporating live music for a while.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but honestly I haven’t thought it was possible until I heard Patrick and his orchestra,” Howland said. “And getting to have it on our 10th anniversary is pretty amazing. … The dancers are excited, and I think it lends some credibility to our performance. Some people have thought this is just a little dance school ‘Nutcracker,’ and I’d like to think this is a real community production and worthy of live music.”

Gary Sanders, secretary of the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra board of directors, said orchestras normally have 50-60 musicians performing “The Nutcracker” ballet — but Southside Philharmonic Orchestra will have 28 due to the condensed performance area.

Clark said having a small orchestra is the biggest challenge they face because of how close the musicians are, and he has rearranged some of the music to fit with a smaller, chamber orchestra.

Howland said the dancers, ranging from 6-20 years old, had to get comfortable performing with a live orchestra.

The dancers began practicing in August, while the musicians started rehearsing in mid-November.

Howland and Clark said the live music will add to the performance and provide a unique experience for the audience.

“There’s an amazing sound that comes from an orchestra that you just can’t duplicate in a recording, and I don’t know why that is,” Clark said. “A few mistakes in an orchestra is actually 10 times more magical in effect than the perfect recording, and it will be this thing where the audience will see the light glow from the top of this pit and hear the sounds of ‘The Nutcracker’ coming, and it’s not like a recording on a speaker.”

This is the first time Dancers’ Alley and Southside Philharmonic Orchestra have collaborated on a performance, which they said will help expose audience members to classical music and dance.