Spreading the Gift of Nutcracker

In addition to our annual run of The Nutcracker at the Long Center, our dancers also perform in “school shows” for elementary school students.

As part of Ballet Austin’s educational programming, volunteer Docents visit 100 schools throughout central Texas each season to provide students with an educational presentation about dance and The Nutcracker as a precursor to attending the shows. The Docent Program is an invaluable educational tool for our community.

Below is a note from Deb Haas on the joys of being a Nutcracker docent AND an Academy parent:

Perhaps you’d like an opportunity to do more than simply drive to and from rehearsals for the next couple of months. If so, I hope you will consider being a volunteer Nutcracker docent, and help the Ballet Austin Guild bring the joy of The Nutcracker to school children throughout the Central Texas area.

My daughter, Miriam, loved The Nutcracker from the first time she saw it (she was 4) and told me then that dancing in The Nutcracker was “her dream”. Well, all her dreams have come true – she will be making her ninth appearance in the production this season, as a rat, which means she has danced virtually every Academy role from angel on up. For all those years, my role has been driver and docent.

As much as Miriam loves dancing, being a docent is hands down my favorite part of The Nutcracker. There is something so special and fulfilling about the opportunity to bring an art form I love to students, who often, have never seen a live ballet performance. For my presentations, I rely on the wonderful materials provided by Ballet Austin’s Community Education Director, Pei-San Brown.  In addition to the presentation itself, each docent receives a bag chock full of props including, of course, a Nutcracker.

Docent training and presentations take place in November and early December before students attend the school shows at the Long Center.  Soup to nuts, being a docent won’t take more than 8 hours out of your busy holiday schedule – and it means so much to our community. I hope you can join us.

Deb Haas,
Nutcracker Docent Co-Chair


Training for Nutcracker docents begins Nov 1. Want to get involved? Find our more or sign up here.



Casting Announced!

We are excited to announce main casting for Ballet Austin’s Golden Anniversary Production of The Nutcracker. More parts to be announced soon.


Herr Silberhaus
Frank Shott, Paul Michael Bloodgood

Frau Silberhaus
Aara Krumpe, Ashley Lynn Gilfix

Edward Carr

Anne Marie Melendez, Chelsea Marie Renner

Dresden Doll
Beth Terwilleger, Oren Porterfield

Pierrot Doll
Orlando Julius Canova, Ian J. Bethany

Nutcracker Prince
Kody Jauron, Andrew Mankin

Rat King
James Fuller, Christopher Swaim

Snow King 
Christopher Swaim, James Fuller, Preston Andrew Patterson

Snow Queen
Rebecca Johnson, Anne Marie Melendez, Jaime Lynn Witts

Sugar Plum Fairy  
Ashley Lynn Gilfix, Aara Krumpe

Paul Michael Bloodgood, Frank Shott

Spanish Male
Orlando Julius Canova, James Fuller

Spanish Female
Elise Pekarek, Brittany Strickland

Arabian Male
Edward Carr, Christopher Swaim

Arabian Female
Anne Marie Melendez, Rebecca Johnson

Ian J. Bethany,    Michael Burfield

Russian Male lead
Preston Andrew Patterson, Ian J. Bethany

French male
Michael Burfield, Jordan Moser

French female
Beth Terwilliger, Oren Porterfield

Waltz lead
Jaime Lynn Witts, Michelle Thompson, Chelsea Marie Renner


Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker runs Dec 8-23 at Long Center. Come celebrate the holidays with us. Tickets.

Mommy + Baby Fit at Ballet Austin

Rarely do we bring you non-performance related news from Ballet Austin, but this one was just too good to pass up.

Brittany Harpole, one of our amazing BCS and Certified Pilates instructors – and recent new mom – is teaching a “Mommy and Baby Fit” workshop beginning this month.

ballet austin dance and fitness

The workshop offers flexible options for new moms of all fitness levels with children ages 10 – 18 months.

For a sneak peek, check out the video below.

For full details and to enroll visit balletaustin.org.

The Other Nutcracker Cast

Every year over 150 Ballet Austin Academy students are cast in Ballet Austin’s production of The Nutcracker.

This year is no exception, with the total clocking in at 174. See if you can spot our…

2 Claras, 2 Fritzs, 11 party girls and 6 party boys:

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

8 rats and 24 mice:

40 bon bons and 20 Chinese

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

… and 61 angels!

Ballet Austin's The Nutcracker

Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker is celebrating its Golden Anniversary this year. Tickets available now.


My Nutcracker Moment

A few weeks ago, we premiered this video at Fete 2012 – our annual gala and biggest fundraiser of the year. Watch below to learn a little bit more about what The Nutcracker means to the Central Texas community.

For more information on how to make a difference with Ballet Austin, visit www.balletaustin.org/mygiftatwork.

Dancer Preview #2: Balancing Swirly Spins with Comedic Timing

Company Dancer Michelle Thompson reflects on the musicality and hilarity of The Taming of the Shrew. Let us know if you can hear her laughing from the audience.

Tonight we are going to the Long Center to prepare for Stephen Mills’ The Taming of the Shrew, and I am looking forward to putting this production on the stage again. I was in the original cast 10 years ago, toured the production to Washington D.C., performed it again 7 years ago, and now will be performing it this coming weekend – making this my fourth opportunity. There are so many things that make this production special. The story, the humor, the sets, the music, and the joyful movement are all lovely ingredients for an extremely entertaining evening.

The choreography is filled with quick jumps, swir­ly spins, humorous gestures, and intricate patterns. Mills’ choreography relates directly to the music, which swoops and swirls around you encouraging you to jump, spin, bend, and run with energy. I am one of the Commedia dancers, and there are very few times of stillness throughout the ballet. The Commedia dancers form intricate patterns and lovely movements, but they also shift the scenes and become part of the narrative that helps drive the story forward. It is important when dancing in a corps de ballet and when moving sets that your timing be precise. Musicality and awareness are essential as you move through the ballet, but all this must be done with a mask on that includes a large beak. So not only do your toes have to be in line, but so does your beak. Ha!

I am also excited to perform as one of the Street Women who starts off as a thief and then ends up happily ever after with one of the suitors. Playing alongside Beth Terwilleger, we get to take off our beaks and put on outrageous wigs creating a rush of excitement for Petruchio. Our Petruchio, Paul Michael Bloodgood, falls for our flirtatious moves and silly trickery and loses all his money. Our journey doesn’t end there, though. We come out later in the third act without the wig and dance happily at the Garden Wedding. The third act is extremely joyful and full of celebratory dances and my suitor, Jordan Moser, partners me in many twirls and jumps as we happily dance the evening away.

Throughout this ballet the steps and patterns must be precise, but the acting and comedic timing are vital. Our bodies and faces must communicate the frustration, the joy, the disgust, the flirtation, and the joke so that the audience can fully appreciate the story unfolding. It is important to be aware of your fellow Commedia dancers, your partner, the music, and the audience to communicate the story and to capture the greatest laugh. I always find myself cackling loudly during Petruchio’s house. I hope you will join my cackle this weekend at the Long Center.

The Taming of the Shrew opens FRIDAY, for one weekend only. Tickets available here.

Dancer Preview: The Shrew and her Suitor…

Company dancers Frank Shott and Jaime Lynn Witts discuss comedy, chemistry and what it’s like to dance together as Kate and Petruchio (when they’re already married!)

ballet austin the taming of the shrew

There is always a sense of anticipation just before casting is posted for any show. Story ballets, like The Taming of the Shrew, hold a particular excitement, and the chance to develop and portray a character on stage can be incredibly rewarding. There are so many different things to think about besides just the dance steps. The story needs to be clear and in the case of Taming, so do the jokes – everything from slapstick to sarcasm needs to read all the way to the back of the audience. It is no easy feat to be believable, funny and dance well all at the same time.

So much of comedy is onstage chemistry between the two leads. The chance to do this with someone that you already share so much with is an indescribable joy. While Jaime and I have had a couple of other opportunities to dance together before, this is the first time that we have gotten to do so in a story ballet. I have always wanted to play a part opposite her in a character-driven piece. She has a sense of comedic timing and theatricality which lights up the stage. Jaime also has a strong personality (just ask around) that when coupled with my own particular “charms” makes The Taming of the Shrew seem like a natural choice.

When casting was posted for The Taming of the Shrew, I was stunned. Not only was I going to get the opportunity to play Kate, but I was going to get to dance with my husband, Frank, as Petruchio. I could already hear the jokes from our friends and co-workers. I guess I have a strong personality and am the oldest of three girls, so Kate and I have a couple of things in common. It has been so much fun getting to work on this with Frank. Comedy is challenging, but we have been able to take advantage of the chemistry we have while working on our characters in the studio. Frank and I have a particular way we banter back and forth, a little like Kate and Petruchio toned down, and it’s so fun to look over and see him making a face I know I would see at home. Sometimes there’s just not that much acting involved – it’s just like us!

ballet austin the taming of the shrew

We do go home and discuss the scenes we rehearsed that day when we get a second after school, teaching Academy class and putting our daughter to sleep. We talk about what is working, what isn’t working, and where we would like to go with our characters. Jaime’s insights and impressions always give me new ideas of where I could go. Frank sees things from a very different place than I do, so it’s great to have his opinion. It has been such a fun and unique experience so far. We do both have to laugh at the situation sometimes, particularly when I keep telling him I won’t marry him. We can’t wait to see where exactly our characters end up when we get to the shows!

(Oh, and by the way, thankfully Jaime didn’t laugh in my face when I asked her to marry me!)

Don’t miss The Taming of the Shrew Oct 5-7 at the Long Center. Jaime and Frank perform Saturday at 8pm. Tickets here.