By Denise Koch

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s as synonymous with Christmas as gingerbread, jingle bells and twinkling lights. “The Nutcracker” is coming to the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric — but only for one day.

The Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s production runs Saturday, Dec. 23 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and will include a live orchestra and more than 50 dancers telling the story of Clara who, on Christmas Eve, is gifted a nutcracker. When Clara falls asleep, she travels through her dreams into a fantasy land that includes her first feelings of romance.

“‘The Nutcracker’ is why I became a dancer. The first time I saw it, I was three and I turned to my mother and said I was going to be Clara some day,” says principal dancer Nicole Kelsch says. “So it’s really, really special to me.”

The theatre’s production includes a number of local children who are studying dance and have been rehearsing since the summer.

The young performers are all under the artistic direction of Dianna Cuatto.

“I demand a lot from the kids, but in a very positive way. But, they really rise to the occasion. Because they are still children, they have an element of wonder that matches the score and the choreography so well,” says Cuatto. “Anyone who watches ‘The Nutcracker’ and listens to Tschaikovsky’s iconic score needs to have a sense of wonder.”

The theatre is a professional company with 45 dancers who rehearse and take classes six days a week.

The dancers are as highly trained as athletes.

Principal dancer Mark Andrew MacCormack says, “We start every day with class and then go to rehearsals. It can be grueling, but it’s worth it when you see people enjoy the performance and you have an affect on someone in the audience.”

The performances are in honor of the late David Modell who was a philanthropist and champion of the arts. His parents donated the money to keep the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric alive with artistic events like “The Nutcracker.”

Tickets are still available.

The theatre says if audiences arrive early enough, they’ll be met by carolers, the Sugar Plum Fairy and even Santa Claus!

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