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Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
Imagine Ballet members are ready to take the stage. From left, Macall Bowden, 15, as a drummer, Aubrie Smalley, 10, as Jack in the Box, Jennifer Jackson, 16, as Clara and Allysa Alger, 15, as a doll.

Imagine Ballet Theatre artistic director Raymond Van Mason loves "The Nutcracker" story.

"I'm not like other dancers who get tired of it," Van Mason told the Deseret Morning News. "I first danced in it when I was 8. And I knew then that I wanted to do something else when I got older. I wanted to do my own someday.

"But I also did know that the only way I would do a 'Nutcracker' is if I could do something different with it than what has already been done. I told my dancers that it had to be different."

Van Mason knew, however, that there were some iconic images that couldn't be changed. "I mean, there's not much you can do about a nutcracker and the Sugar Plum Fairy, but I could change how they danced and who they danced with."

One of the major changes is that Clara is more the focus of the story, Van Mason said. "She's older in this story. She's on pointe and she'll wear the nightgown throughout the production. In fact, she'll be dancing a lot throughout the production, and not just there like other versions."

Audiences will be surprised at the battle of the rats and soldiers, Van Mason said.

"The rats aren't mice. They're a little darker than what people are used to. There is some humor, but it's not like the average 'Nutcracker.' The rats are part human and part rat. And the way we did it leans more to the original (E.T.A. Hoffman) story. It's a nightmare and the rats are the same dancers who were the boys in the party scene."

The "snow" scene is a bit different in Van Mason's vision. The Nutcracker Prince, the Snow Queen and Clara dance a pas de troi.

Which brings up the next big showcase — the Sugar Plum Fairy. "As I said earlier, I wanted to involve Clara more in the dancing. So she, the Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy will also dance a pas de troi instead of having the fairy dance with her cavalier. But I also wanted the dance to be a little less formal. It is formal, but not as formal as others. I wanted to have Clara be presented in a more cotillion type of situation."

There are other changes, and Van Mason said he hopes the audience will come to embrace his version. "I absolutely adore (Willam F. Christensen's) version of the story," he said. "And I didn't want to do the same thing.

"I've danced in many 'Nutcrackers' all over the country and even did one in Japan over the past 35 years. And I have picked and chosen some of the different elements from all those and made them my own for this one."

Accompanying the dancing will be live music by the New America Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Ogden. "This will be the first year that we have actually danced all our performances to live music," Van Mason said. "And while there are different 'Nutcrackers' that perform in Ogden, our version is the only one performed that is based in Ogden

"I've always wanted to be a company that benefits the local Ogden arts scene."

If you go . . .

What: "The Nutcracker," Imagine Ballet Theatre

Where: Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden

When: Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.

How much: $10-$25

Phone: 801-395-3227

Web: www.peerysegyptiantheater.com

E-mail: [email protected]