Above: The Nutcracker is a family tradition for performers and audiences. All photos courtesy of the Roswell Dance Theatre.

The Roswell Dance Theatre’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” has become a holiday tradition for families in north Fulton County. This year’s production, the 30th annual one, will be performed at a new, larger venue in Sandy Springs.

“The Nutcracker sets the stage for the holiday spirit,” Roswell Dance Theatre’s director Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz said. “It’s the perfect time of year to kick off things and it’s a joyous event for friends and family.”

Mindy Elkan, director of the MDE (Motivation, Dedication, Excellence) School of East Cobb,makes attending the Roswell Dance Theatre’s version of the ballet a regular holiday treat for both her students and members of her family.

Nutcracker mouse RDTA Family Tradition

Elkan danced herself as a young girl. Sheattended her first Nutcracker performance in New York City at aboutage 6. “I love the music of the Nutcracker and ballet is a love of mine, so put the music, the dance and the holiday season together and it’s magical for me,” Elkan said.

It was a love that she also wanted to share with her grandchildren. Her oldest granddaughter, Alexis, first saw the Roswell Dance Theatre show when she was 4, and it so inspired her that she auditioned the next year. At 5, she was cast as a parrot.

Ten years later, all three of her granddaughters have become involved in the Nutcracker. This year, granddaughters Alexis, Maizy and Remy are all in the show. Elkan’s school serves children with special needs. Her students attend a modified version of the performance that is shorter than the traditional ballet and offers more emphasis on the action of the performance.

“We love doing the school shows,” Tolbert Yilmaz said. “The audience interacts more and we encourage the children to enjoy it and make noise. They like to cheer for the Mouse King and the Nutcracker like it’s a real battle going on in front of their eyes.”

For members of Angie Monday’s family, the Nutcracker is a tradition that extends beyond the stage. Her son, Presley, is 18 and has autism. He looks forward to the performance every year and has collected many different book versions of the Nutcracker tale.

“He still loves to look through them and retell the story. Going to the performance, hearing the music, seeing the beautiful scenery and watching the graceful dancers just brings it all to life,” she said.

The 2018 Show

For this year’s holiday show, the Dance Theatre will perform the Nutcracker at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center rather than the Roswell Cultural Arts Center. The show features more than 350 performers ranging in age from 5 to 70-plus and the new venue allows for more stage space — from the former 33 feet to 93 feet — and better accommodates the performance, dancers, sets and props, Tolbert Yilmaz said.

Nutcracker RDT dancersTolbert Yilmaz admits that through 30 years of performances, there have a been a few mishaps onstage. She laughs as she tells astory regarding a snow machine snafu. After putting “snow” into three drums, there was a latch malfunction.

Placed high above the dancers, the drums were supposed to rotate and sprinkle snow over the performers, creating a magical wintery effect. Instead, during one performance, the latch gave way and the snow emptied out in one batch, entirely covering one dancer mid-performance.

“She looked just like Olaf!” Tolbert Yilmaz recalled, referring to the snowman in the Disney movie “Frozen.” “Right there, on stage left, we had an avalanche, and she still kept dancing!”

This year’s show offers some planned surprises for audience members who may think they have seen it all before. One addition is a new, larger onstage Christmas tree that magically grows to a towering 15 feet.

And with Jeanne Deitrich — a brand new costume mistress — at the helm, audience members can expect to see an array of new costumes. “The tutus [for the Sugar Plum Fairy costumes] were handmade” and “took over four months” to construct, said Lynn Gillen, Roswell Dance Theatre manager. And, she added, “they’re embellished with over 3,000 Swarovski crystals!”

More to Come

Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz
Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz

As Tolbert Yilmaz’ company prepares for new performances of the Nutcracker, her dance school is breaking ground in Roswell on a 23,300 square-foot studio, which is set to be completed in 2019.

“We are so grateful to the community because we couldn’t do this without the support of so many for so many years,” Tolbert Yilmaz said. “The dance school is about to approach its 40th year and I’m shocked. I told my husband, “I just feel like I’m going to wake up and someone’s going to say, ‘This was all a dream.’

“In all of my years of teaching, I’ve never been this excited.”

The Nutcracker by Roswell Dance Theatre

Performance dates and times:

  • Friday, Nov. 23, 2 and 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 24, 2 and 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 25, 1 and 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 29, 10 a.m. — school show, shortened performance
  • Friday, Nov. 30,10 a.m. — school show, shortened performance
  • Friday, Nov. 30, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. Character Meet & Greet; 11 a.m. performance
  • Saturday, Dec. 1, 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 2, 1 p.m. Character Meet & Greet; 2 p.m. performance

Where: Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs 30328

Tickets: Sales begin October 22, and prices range from $10-$35.

More info and tickets: Call 770-998-0259 or visit Roswell Nutcracker.com.

Julie E. Bloemeke is a writer and poet based in metro Atlanta.