Readying ‘The Nutcracker’ at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet |

Readying ‘The Nutcracker’ at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Shannon Asher
Special to The Aspen Times
Riley MacArthur, 15, right, practices her marionette routine that she will be performing for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s The Nutcracker in their studio in Aspen on Saturday, December 14, 2019. The Nutcracker will be performed at the Aspen District theatre on December 21 and 22. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times


What: ‘The Nutcracker,’ presented by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Where: Aspen District Theatre

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 22, 1 & 5 p.m.

How much: $36-$114

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office;

Trends may come and go over the years but there is one holiday tradition that has not lost steam since its inception in 1892: Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” the two-act ballet that recounts the story of a young girl who befriends a nutcracker on Christmas Eve and does battle against the evil Mouse King.

The annual Aspen Santa Fe Ballet production of this classic includes more than 100 local children, 10 company dancers, multiple guest dancers and staff, faculty and technical crew, totaling more than 200 people involved in this production.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet school director Melanie Doskocil has been directing “The Nutcracker” at the Aspen District Theatre for 15 years.

“I hope that this performance is a window into the magic that dance can bring to your life,” said Aspen Santa Fe’s Melanie Doskocil, who has been directing “The Nutcracker” at the Aspen District Theatre for 15 years. “I hope that the families see the delight and the joy and fun that the children are having in these performances.”

“There’s always that question of, ‘Is this a fantasy?’” Doskocil asked. “Is this a dream? Does she really get whisked away to another world? The way everything ties together, audience members begin to get a clearer idea of what our take on the story is.”

Each version of “The Nutcracker” brings its own twist to the traditional choreography and storyline. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is no different.

“Our second act has a circus theme to it,” Doskocil said. “We were probably one of the first organizations that actually had a traditional Chinese folk dancer come and do a traditional Chinese dance rather than having ballet dancers acting like Chinese dancers. We also have traditional Russian folk dancers for the Russian dance again, instead of ballet dancers. For our Arabian scene, we have a silks performer. She’s been doing it with us for quite a while.”

The company likes to honor the tradition of their “Nutcracker,” so they don’t change a lot from year to year.

“I think the biggest changes are new dancers to our company, and the new children each year that bring a new vitality to it,” Doskocil said. “We also have added a new character to our snow scene. People can keep an eye out for that, but no big changes, just constantly refining it and keeping it fresh.”

Doskocil started dancing ballet when she was 10 years old. From that year on, she has never missed a “Nutcracker.”

“I danced all kinds of different roles growing up — snowflakes, flowers, Chinese, Mirlitons, Spanish, etc,” Doskocil said. “Then when I went on to be a professional dancer, all the companies that I danced with performed ‘Nutcrackers.’ … Now, here, I’m getting to pass on this holiday tradition to a new generation of students and that’s really fun.”

The children start working in early November with rehearsals held on Saturdays.

“We recognize that November and December are a busy time for people, and we try not to take up people’s weekends for the entire fall,” Doskocil said. “We have a fairly short but intense rehearsal period.”

“I’m so lucky, I feel, to be able to stand backstage and watch, but I think my tried and true favorite theme for our performance is probably the snow scene,” Doskocil said when discussing her favorite moments from the performance year after year. “The snow scene is just magical.”


See more