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The Nutcracker Fantasy journey
Courtesy of Minnesota Dance Theatre and School
by Lise Houlton


We hear a Muzak version of Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy in an elevator - the Nutcracker's March attached to a brand of automobiles, its Trepak dance to an athletic entrance. So mainstream are these tunes as to allow us to forget their delicate capability to create a particular magic when paired with dance.

When these collective sounds, movements and images combine to affect the imagination, there is an event. When music, dance and scenery on the stage tell a story so explicitly, there is again an event. Greater than the sum of its parts, something indefinable, and impermanent, happens.

Some of us - and I am not alone - have been a part of the Nutcracker Fantasy since 1964. It was so small when it started in the tiny Moppet Playhouse on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, and immediately so large in impact.

Today, the Nutcracker Fantasy is embedded in this community. Not from local business sponsorships or major advertising, but from audiences, artists, dancers, musicians, designers and theater crew of this community that respond to its magic year after year. Generations of us have our own stories to tell in memories with imperfections and personal perspectives. Perhaps this rich past, and the myriad transformational experiences remembered and shared, continue to nourish and shape this production's now formidable 52-year track record.

Even as the Nutcracker Fantasy matures, I will always believe that its nuanced and exuberant celebration of children is the cornerstone of my mother's Nutcracker. Loyce Houlton, my mother, was the founder of the Moppet performance. She had great faith in children and could see the world through their eyes. She expected so much from them, and they were pleased to comply and conspire.

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Steeped in storytelling, from an era of great children's literature, with a touch of Virginia Woolf, a splash of Gertrude Stein, and so many others within this two-hour production, this Nutcracker journeys on with a strong pulse and full heart.

Lise Houlton is the artistic director of the Minnesota Dance Theatre and School. Her mother, Loyce Houlton, was founder of the Nutcracker Fantasy. FFI: tinyurl.com/MWP-Nutcracker

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