As the holidays draw nearer families are looking for festive activities every member can enjoy, and the Ahwatukee Foothills Ballet production of The Nutcracker is a production that can be appreciated by parents and children alike.

The 10th annual production, put on by Kimberly Lewis School of Dance, will take place at Desert Vista Fine Arts Theatre this weekend. The cast is comprised of 135 young dancers from all over the Valley.

“We started rehearsing in August, and we’ve been rehearsing every Saturday since then from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” owner Kimberly Lewis said. “We’ve been able to bring this holiday classic to the community because of their support, and we hope people will buy tickets this year so that we can continue in the future.”

Each costume in the production is individually designed and hand sewn, including favorite characters such as Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Olivia Gregg has been in The Nutcracker for five years, and this year she will play Clara, one of the lead roles. Gregg is a fourth-grader at Horizon Community Learning Center.

“It’s been really fun learning the part of Clara, and I was really surprised I got the part,” Gregg said. “I like the choreography for Clara, but in past years I was a baby mouse, an angel and a china doll.”

Gregg’s teachers from school, friends, her grandparents and other relatives will be coming to see her perform.

“I’m nervous and excited, but I like the confidence I show when performing and feel really comfortable,” she said.

Mark Benek, also an Ahwatukee Foothills resident, has two daughters who will be performing in The Nutcracker. Although rehearsing for the performances has been a significant time commitment, Benek and his wife appreciate the fact that it has taught their daughters self discipline and time management.

“The main reason we’re doing it is to build their confidence and their self esteem,” Benek said. “We’ve noticed with Brenna that it’s much easier for her to get in front of an audience and speak now that she has performed.”

Kimberly Lewis encourages families to come out for the Saturday, Dec. 19 matinee performance if they are bringing children. At the end of the show the entire audience will sing “Jingle Bells” and Santa will make an appearance in his sled.

“People can take as many photos with Santa as they want, and all of the cast members will be there in costume,” Lewis said. “Children can also go up and sit on the Land of Sweets set. It has kind of become a really fun family tradition here in Ahwatukee.”

Performance times will be Friday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 19, at 2 and 7 p.m. The Desert Vista Fine Arts Theatre is located at 16440 S. 32nd St. Tickets cost $14-$30. To buy tickets, call (480) 706-6040 or visit www.afnutcracker.com.

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