One of the unique elements of Rocky Mountain Dance Theater’s annual Nutcracker show is blending in professional dancers with the large array of regional dancers, actors and youths who participate in the show.

Generally, the two professional dancers, playing the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, only ever dance with the local performer playing Clara.

This year they’ll be much more combining as Washington, D.C. dancer Natalia Magnicaballi will have a couple of dances with some of the younger girls.

“It’s really exciting for them,” said executive director Elizabeth Fernandez. “They love to dance with the older kids, but it’s even more special to dance with a real ballerina.”

Fernandez said that element of collaboration adds a “sweetness” to the play this year.

Performances are 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be purchased at, the Thistle or at the door if still available.

Magnicaballi and fellow Suzanne Farrell Ballet dancer Michael Cook have both performed in the show before.

Along with extra dances between the pros and the youth new characters have been introduced, one way Ferndandez works to make the show fresh.

“It’s not huge, but I do think it adds texture to the ballet,” she said. “I think it makes the story more fitting to our area. We like to incorporate our guest dancers with our kids and it’s great they’re willing to do that for us.”

Fernandez said the need to keep things fresh is one of the challenges of doing the same show year-after-year.

This is the 21st Annual Nutcracker that nonprofit Rocky Mountain Dance Theatre has produced. 

To get new ideas, Fernandez has been spending the past three summers working to get her Bolshoi teacher certification.

She finished the course this past summer, with one of the classes focused on partnering.

“This one was particularly valuable,” she said. “It talked about different techniques than what I had known. So we re-choreographed a couple of the things we do.”

That included adding a few roles to change the story slightly.

She said the key when altering the story is to use the different talents you have each year to work with. 

“It’s the same show, but at the same time I find it rewarding to make it different every year,” she said.

There’s also a new Clara this year, played by Claire Pfister, 17, who has been dancing for 12 years. 

For the last 10 years Pfister has been in the Nutcracker. Her roles have included a Spanish dancer, young Clara and the Snow and Flower Core.

She’s now in the star local role, one who has always danced alongside the professional dancers in some scenes.

“It’s an honor, its really exciting to be able to dance with them [the professionals], but it’s also a lot to live up to,” Pfister said. “What’s really nice about the Nutcracker is there are a lot of roles. All the high school students all have a lead role and the little kids have roles too. 

“There’s a lot of opportunity to be a part of this and dance with professionals.” 

This year that’s true for even more local dancers than usual.

Margaret Kispert contributed to this report

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