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Being Clara in Ballet West's 'Nutcracker'

By Heather Hayes

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 1:10 p.m. MST

“Being Clara is a memory that will last a lifetime, of that I can promise you,” said Nancy McFall, 72, who danced as Ballet West’s first Clara in 1955.

For McFall, it’s hard to believe that more than 50 years have passed since she danced with the shoestring-budget production directed by Willam Christensen.

“Mr. C,” as he was affectionately called, brought his production — a joint choreographic effort with his brother, Lew — from San Francisco Ballet to the newly formed University Theater Ballet in Salt Lake City. McFall, a member of the troupe, was chosen by Mr. C to be his first Clara when she was 15.

“I did it for six years,” she said. “It felt like my part. I love that role and I love the memories. Nothing compares to getting on a stage and making an audience happy.”

University Ballet Theater became Utah Civic Ballet and finally Ballet West. The production, which almost flopped due to low attendance the first year, slowly gained steam and now holds more than 30 performances each holiday season to huge crowds and national esteem.

McFall has had a front-row seat for the explosion of what was once a tiny ballet production of a less-familiar holiday tale. Now in her 12th year as a volunteer usher at the Capitol Theatre, she helps out because she still loves the theater — and “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s my way of holding on to the memory," she said. "I love watching it year after year.”

To Claras present from a Clara past, McFall offers this advice:

“Stay sweet, kind and let your personality come out on stage, it’s what makes it magical for the audience.”

If you go…

What: Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker”

When: Nov. 30-Dec. 28

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 West 200 South, Salt Lake City

How much/ticket info: Prices range from $19 to $75 and are available for purchase through ArtTix by calling (801) 355-ARTS or at www.arttix.org

Visit www.balletwest.org for more info.

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