“The Nutcracker” ballet” in Ahwatukee Foothills has been refreshed and reworked for its 14th year but the new changes have only added to the magic, according to Dance Studio 111 owner Kimberly Lewis.

“You can’t describe the new costumes we have this year,” Lewis said. “They are just gorgeous. One dress takes 12 to 14 weeks to make. They are just incredible.”

While the costumes this year are new, including a new Nutcracker and Mouse King, the artistic director, Jill Hammond, has returned to direct the show.

This year the cast is young, ranging in age from 3 to 19 years old, with several of the lead roles going to girls in junior high school, but the dancers are very advanced, according to Lewis.

After 14 years the show is starting to get some notice. Lewis said she has received several calls this year for special performances. The cast will be performing at Rawhide, Tempe Marketplace and the Arizona Grand Resort.

Regular performances are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Desert Vista Fine Arts Theatre, 16440 S. 32nd St. At the end of the Saturday matinee the main character, Clara, will lead the audience in singing Christmas carols and Santa Claus will make a special appearance. The audience will be welcome to take photos with the cast and the scenery from the performance as snow falls inside the theater. That special showing is almost sold out this year, Lewis said.

“A few years ago when the economy was really hurting it was everything in our power to keep this show going,” she said. “People weren’t buying tickets to go to the theater. We saw some years where ticket sales were really down. The staff just said let’s go forward. I said this is our tradition in our community. Those hard years that hit really make you appreciate the fact that this is a good year. We’ve had more ticket sales this year than any other year that we’ve been doing this. We’re very pleased.”

“The Nutcracker” is a classic Christmas story of a little girl who is led by a prince through a magical night full of gingerbread soldiers, sweets from around the world, dolls, clowns and angels dancing on clouds.

“We have so many people coming back saying, ‘I saw this 14 years ago and now I’m bringing my granddaughter to see it,’” Lewis said. “That’s a neat feeling. It’s a tradition in our community. Without the support of the community, there would be no ‘Nutcracker’ ballet. Because of them we’re able to bring these holiday classics for many years to come… Just come and enjoy the magic of the performance.”

For tickets, visit Dance Studio 111, 4910 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 111, call (480) 706-6040, or send an email to afnutcracker@gmail.com. Tickets will be sold at the box office at Desert Vista one hour prior to each show if tickets are available. For more information, visit www.afnutcracker.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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