Abstract: This year’s performances in Eugene will feature live music – for the first time since the recession tightened the ballet’s budget – performed by members of a new “training” orchestra: Orchestra Next.

Founded and conducted by Brian McWhorter, a University of Oregon music professor and professional trumpeter, Orchestra Next mixes music pros, who sit in the principal chairs, with nonprofessional and student musicians from the university and from the community at-large.

“It is wonderful to again have a full orchestra performing for our production,” EBC Artistic Director Toni Pimble said. “The dancers love the energy of live music.

ORCHESTRAL INSPIRATION

The Register – Guard – Eugene, Or.

Dec 20, 2012

Bob Keefer

Clara and her magical nutcracker prince return to town this weekend as Eugene Ballet brings the perennial holiday favorite back to the Hult Center stage.

This year’s performances in Eugene will feature live music – for the first time since the recession tightened the ballet’s budget – performed by members of a new “training” orchestra: Orchestra Next.

Founded and conducted by Brian McWhorter, a University of Oregon music professor and professional trumpeter, Orchestra Next mixes music pros, who sit in the principal chairs, with nonprofessional and student musicians from the university and from the community at-large.

“It is wonderful to again have a full orchestra performing for our production,” EBC Artistic Director Toni Pimble said. “The dancers love the energy of live music.

“I believe the audience will enjoy the artistic synergy, which should be inspiring to everyone.”

As it has for many years, Eugene Ballet is touring its “Nutcracker” production throughout the Pacific Northwest before opening in Eugene.

By the time the dancers reach the stage at the Silva Concert Hall this weekend, they will have performed the show 28 times, in places such as Caldwell, Idaho, and Walla Walla, Wash.

Performing leading roles in Eugene productions of the “Nutcracker” are Yoshie Oshima and Juan Carlos Amy-Cordero, who dance as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. They will be alternating performances here with Heather Wallace and Aoi Anraku.

Oshima also will be dancing the role of Clara in Act I, alternating with Suzanne Haag. This is the first time the company has cast Haag as Clara.

“We perform on many different stages when we dance on tour,” Haag said, “but because the Hult Center is such a gorgeous theater to perform in, as well as being home, it is extra special for me.”

Wide cast of dancers

One reason for the enduring popularity of “The Nutcracker” with ballet companies is the ability to add scores of young student dancers to the cast (and their families, naturally, to the audience).

This year’s performances will feature 146 local dance students, who will play the parts of baby mice, angels, cavalry, lions, party children and ladybugs.

Students involved in the production were selected by audition in October. They have been rehearsing under the direction of Sara Lombardi and Florabelle Moses.

Based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet tells the story of Clara, who falls asleep after a family Christmas party and dreams about a duel between the Mouse King and a nutcracker come to life as a handsome prince.

Children who want a fun introduction to the show can attend the ballet’s Nutcracker Tea, held at noon Saturday and Sunday in the Hult Center’s Studio. Storyteller Mark Lewis will entertain and explain the story in words and music.

Tickets are $25.

The ballet has teamed up with FOOD for Lane County this year to collect peanut butter, a protein source for poor people that is now in short supply.

The Peanutcracker campaign will put out food barrels where people can drop off jars of peanut butter on their way to the show this weekend.

DANCE PREVIEW

The Nutcracker

What: Eugene Ballet performs the holiday classic story of a girl and a magical toy, with music by P.I. Tchaikovsky performed by Orchestra Next

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $22 to $48, youths $15 to $40, at 541-682-5000 and HultCenter.org