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BORDERLANDS BALLET COMPANY

Borderlands Ballet presents ‘The Nutcracker,’ Dec. 16-18 at ASNMSU Center for the Arts

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Borderlands Ballet Company (BBC) of Las Cruces presents “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 16-18, at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts, 1000 E. University Ave. Tickets for reserved seating are $25 and are available at borderlands-ballet.com.

“At Borderlands, we have been fortunate because the Las Cruces School of Dance & Music (LCSMD), where we are housed, has a high-quality outdoor stage,” said BBC Artistic Director Monique Foster. “As a result, our dancers were able to continue doing some live performances despite restrictions on indoor shows. Still, the ASTC Center for the Arts is such a beautiful theater and I know the dancers and our supporters are looking forward to the full theatrical experience.”

The pandemic been especially hard on small, regional dance companies like LCSMD, said co-owner Marc A. Moffett said. Besides the financial impact, Covid has been very difficult for dancers and dance teachers who have not been able to rehearse and perform for so long, he said.

Moving forward into its 2021-22 season, Moffett noted that “ballet is an art of tradition, and nothing is more traditional than ‘The Nutcracker.’”

Lana Pillsbury, a lead dancer with BBC and president of its board, was cast as the Snow Queen and will be performing in “The Nutcracker” for the first time.

“My teacher at the Portland Ballet was usually cast as Snow Queen,” Pillsbury said. “I was able to watch her perform in ‘The Nutcracker’ every year. This year, I get the chance to be that character that I admired onstage for all those years.”

“I came to Las Cruces to complete a graduate degree in environmental engineering,” Pillsbury said. “One of the really important things about local companies like Borderlands is that they provide opportunities for people like me to become part of the local artistic community and develop a relationship with the city. When I got here, the pandemic was surging, and I was in a new city; I wasn’t sure that dance would continue to be a part of my life. But not only have I gotten the chance to dance again, I get the chance to be a part of this spectacular production. It’s incredibly exciting.”

Janelle Hernandez, who will perform the Dew Drop Variation in “The Nutcracker” and is vice-president of the BBC board, is a native New Mexican who grew up dancing in southern New Mexico. She now teaches 3- to 6-year-olds at LCSDM.

“I’ve had the opportunity to perform in ‘The Nutcracker’ many times,” Hernandez said. “From the time I started dancing as a young child until today, it’s been part of my life. But this year I not only get to perform Dew Drop – one of the most beautiful pieces in the show – I get to experience the show with my students. I get to see them become part of the tradition.”

Olivia Leon will dance Sugar Plum in “The Nutcracker.”

“Olivia began dancing at LCSDM when the school opened its Las Cruces branch (it began life as the Academy of Ballet in Alamogordo) in 2011. After years of hard work, she is now preparing to tackle what may be the biggest role in ballet,” Moffett said.

“I really didn’t expect to win this role at auditions,” Leon said. “It’s amazing that I was cast as Sugar Plum. So many of the dancers that I’ve admired at the studio danced this role and now it’s me. Those dancers we so talented. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating.”

“One thing I am looking forward to is when we start full rehearsals,” Leon said. “When you are rehearsing your part, it feels like the focus is on you. But when you put the whole show together, you realize that you are just part of something bigger and that there are lots of amazing dancers around you. Everybody is working so hard. It’s a work of art and you are just one little part of it. That’s reassuring.”

Other BBC dancers performing in “The Nutcracker” are with John Pohl (Cavalier), Ryleigh Wellborn (Arabian), Joshua Godman (Arabian and Rat King) and Daniel Lindsay (Spanish).

LCSDM advanced dancers in the show will include Mia Bergson (Lead Candy Cane), Juliana Chavez (Clara), Kyra Gagnier (Marzipan soloist), Brooke Gonzales (Chinese) and Isabella Haas (Spanish).

BBC is a nonprofit dance company currently housed at LCSMD, 1390 North Main St. It serves the entire borderland region with performances and educational outreach. Auditions for BBC are held annually in late summer.

Call 575- 525-5670. Visit www.borderlands-ballet.com.