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BWW Review: THE NUTCRACKER WITH BALLET WEST at Atwood Concert Hall It's not the holidays without The Nutcracker! The Anchorage Concert Association's production of the Nutcracker with Ballet West ran from November 29th through December 1st At the Alaska Center for Performing Arts. Ballet West, the first premiere dance company to perform the Nutcracker at the Alaska Center for Performing Arts, returns to the ACPA stage for the 30th anniversary of the Nutcracker in Anchorage. Starring Ballet West and local talent from Alaska Dance Theatre, the Anchorage Concert Association tells this beautiful holiday classic through extraordinary sets and astonishing costuming. The most stunning part? An entire story was told without a single spoken word.

The iconic role of Clara was played by two local Anchorage dancers: Siobhan Witty-Daugherty and Libby Jabaay. These two talented young performers were also incredibly well spoken for being just 12 years of age. When asked how they were most like their character Clara, Siobhan replied, "The way that she interacts with the prince and how much she enjoys it. How happy she is!" with Libby adding, "We're on the transition of being kids and getting older. Clara is between playing with her friends and siblings and going out on her own and having her own dreams."

Playing Clara surely was a dream come true for both Siobhan and Libby. Their favorite part of the performance was having the chance to perform with the Ballet West Dancers. Libby stated that both herself and Siobhan have played Party Girls in previous productions of The Nutcracker, and having the chance to play Clara was both rewarding and humbling. "It's so surreal," Siobhan said of playing the iconic role.

Both girls agreed that this experienced has helped to influence the way they dance. "It helped us be more independent, we have to know what we're doing with our part. And it really helped with our acting!" Libby said. "It helped with our presentation a lot. Even if you're doing a solo without a big plot line, we can use this experience and what we've learned to make that solo more magical," Siobhan announced, reflecting on the role.

Both girls stated that the acting required for the role was the most difficult part. "The acting is really demanding," Siobhan said. "A lot of times, Clara doesn't have this much acting. The scene where we break the Nutcracker uses a lot of acting." "The role is really demanding. We have to be really sure with choreography because there are scenes where people are looking to you for cues. You always have to remember the choreography and stay in character, even if you forget, or fall." Libby added with a smile.

When asked what advice they have for young ballerinas who dream of playing Clara one day, Libby said, "Always believe in yourself. I never trust myself to do anything, but it's important to trust that you're doing the right thing. Have the courage that you know how to do this, and you know how to handle it." with Siobhan adding, "Enjoy it. It goes by really fast. The production feels long when you're watching it, but it goes by really fast on-stage, so be sure to enjoy it!"

This magical holiday performance was sponsored by ConocoPhillips Alaska, Alaska Daily News, and Westmark Anchorage Alaska.

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From This Author - Jessica Reisinger