Digital Original: A timeless ballet with North Dakota flourishes

Digital Originals

The long-time winter wonderland ballet, “The Nutcracker,” is back in full force for its 17th performance. Many people think every version of “The Nutcracker” is the same, but this version hits closer to home.

Hollis Mackintosh Heid is the current Director of Northern Plains Dance. She is originally from upstate New York and has years of dance experience under her belt. She was a professional ballet dancer for five years with companies from New York, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia. When she heard of the director position opening at Northern Plains Dance, she and four of her friends lept at the opportunity and moved here to Bismarck. She’s been the director now for 13 years.

What makes “The Nutcracker” so special is how the sets are custom made — they all have a particular meaning.

For example, when “The Nutcracker” opens, the first scene is in reference to the Governor’s Mansion. Then when it opens to the interior of the house, you’ll notice a peacock, which means luck. After that is the snow scene, which is special to Hollis because it’s a scene from her parent’s cabin in upstate New York.

The second act’s set design is in reference to the Pearly Gates. Following that is Land of the Sweets, which is designed by local artist, Paul Noot.

There are 130 cast members this year ranging from ages 4 to 72. Mackintosh’s father is the oldest of the cast, playing the grandfather in the party scene for the last three or four years now.

This show has been a holiday tradition for many families in the Bismarck community. Hollis says she hopes this tradition continues for years to come.

Some fun facts:

  • “The Nutcracker” is based on the book, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” by E.T.A Hoffmann.
  • In 1891, a legendary choreographer named Marius Petipa asked Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to compose the music for “The Nutcracker.”
  • The first performance took place in 1892 but was not a great success.
  • The first performance in the United States was in 1944, performed by the San Fransico Ballet.
  • Northern Plains Dance first performed “The Nutcracker” in 1998.
  • The dancers have been rehearsing for 12 weeks.
  • Each costume takes an average of six hours to make.
  • One pair of point shoes costs $85. The dancers wear about four pairs per season.
  • NPD is a non-profit and its mission is working with the community. They have 15 outreach programs that run year-round.

The show opens on Friday, December 13th at the Belle Mehus. For more information go here.

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