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An all-American 'Nutcracker'

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Septime Webre, the artistic director of the Washington Ballet since 1999, excels in creativity. His choreography of "The Nutcracker" exemplifies the scope of his imagination.

"The art is at its most powerful when people see the dancers onstage presenting the concept of an American 'Nutcracker,' " Webre said. "I set it in a Georgetown mansion in 1882 with bits of Washington history where prominent residents are guests. American culture is represented by the Colonists and Natives during the various numbers. Hundreds of details explain who we are as Americans through darned good energetic dancing.

"The 'Russian Dance' ('Trepak') becomes the 'Dance of Frontier Men,' while the 'Arabian Dance' is the 'Dance of the Anacostia Indians.' Audiences love the sense of whimsy and fantasy that comes with dancing Hopi Kachina Dolls, Mother Barnum and her circus, and the giant Humpty Dumpty that represents King George III."

Onstage
'The Nutcracker'
Where: Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW
When: Friday through Dec. 23
Info: $34 to $101; 202-397-SEAT (7328); washingtonballet.org

At a Georgetown party, young Clara receives a nutcracker that becomes a handsome prince, or George Washington. After his soldiers win a battle with the king, he takes her on a journey to see the Snow Queen and King, the Sugar Plum Fairy and cherry blossoms by the Potomac River in springtime, all danced to the original Tchaikovsky score.

Emily Ellis, the Sugar Plum Fairy, joined the Cincinnati Ballet right out of high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Before coming to TWB two seasons ago, she performed with the Dutch National Ballet and in international festivals. She says she's thrilled to dance the role of the character who is every little girl's dream.

"Many people encouraged me from an early age, my mom more than anyone," she said. "It's exciting to know that I'm an icon for so many starry-eyed, aspiring ballerinas/dancers, and it's an honor to work with and motivate the local dancers who have the opportunity to perform and make their dream a reality."

The Washington Ballet was founded in 1944 as a school before becoming a professional company in 1976. Today its Washington School of Ballet prepare dancers for future careers, while its outreach program serves the D.C. community through an integrated school language arts curriculum and a scholarship program that provides professional ballet technique training.

"Looking at everything I've done, I regard 'The Nutcracker' as the most distinctive because it emphasizes the love of theater, storytelling, an exchange of energy between dancers and the audience, and it has a large cast," Webre said. "This is a ballet the audiences and performers alike will always remember for the structure of the narrative and Tchaikovsky's music, the engine that drives everything."

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