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'Nutcracker' an annual tradition in Turlock
Backstage Dance Studio's Serena Anderson, Tabitha Smith, Katia Flores and Isabella Ladine pose during practice scenes from the "Twisted Nutcracker." - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

For over 30 years, local dance company Backstage Academy of Dance has brought the classic Christmas tale of “The Nutcracker” to life, with dancers of all ages performing what has become a holiday tradition in Turlock.


“There are a lot of families who have made this production their tradition, whether it be because they know dancers that are in it or they’ve had dancers in it in the past, so they continue to come watch,” said Backstage executive director Kristi Garcia, who is directing “The Nutcracker” for the 19th year.


What began 32 years ago as a full-scale ballet has evolved over the years, said Garcia. Three years ago, Garcia made changes to the production, transforming it into the “twisted” nutcracker. Instead of only ballet, the performance now includes other styles of dance, such as jazz, tap and hip hop.


“It’s fun to change and create new choreography each year, and since it’s the third year of the ‘twisted’ nutcracker, it allows us to change things even more,” said Garcia. “It also allows all of the students to audition for parts, rather than just the ballet students.”


This year, Garcia had the help of eight other choreographers to create the 2016 show. Though the story remains the same year after year, the show’s specific dance moves undergo change to provide a unique performance for every production.


“I’ve learned to delegate the choreography,” said Garcia. “It helps with the diversity of the production."


Around 60 dancers auditioned for “The Nutcracker” this year, and the cast consists of roughly 50 dancers, ranging in age from four to 30 years old. The varying ages of the dancers adds to the show’s unique quality, said Garcia.


“It brings a lot of excitement, with the little dancers being so cute and fun and the older dancers being so talented and experienced.”


The troupe has been preparing for their annual show since October, putting in about seven hours per day of rehearsals on the weekends and three or four hours of rehearsals during the week. The time spent together preparing for the production is an event that the dance team looks forward to every year, especially since they belong to a small studio like Backstage.


“Because we’re a smaller studio, we’re one big dance family,” said Garcia. “If you were to ask the dancers and parents, they would say there is a connection between all of us.”


“The Nutcracker” tells the story of Clara, who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and their adventures with the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in the lands of sweets and snow. This year, the lead of Clara will be played by Tabitha Smith and the lead of Drosselmeyer will be played by Alex Alansalon.


“I just love to watch the excitement in the dancers, and see them grow throughout the year,” said Garcia.


Backstage Academy of Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed at 6:30 p.m. Friday and at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday at the Turlock Community Theatre, 1571 E Canal Dr. Presale tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children and students with ID, and can be purchased at Backstage Academy of Dance, 957 E. Monte Vista Ave., or at The Dance Bag, 1700 McHenry Ave. in Modesto. Tickets may also be purchased at the door prior to each performance and will be $20 for adults and $15 for children and students with ID.