FOR ‘NUTCRACKER’ CAST, IT’S CRUNCH TIME

Photo provided by New Orleans Ballet Association -- executive director Jenny Hamilton
Photo provided by New Orleans Ballet Association -- executive director Jenny Hamilton

The New Orleans Ballet Association presents a season of world-renowned dance companies, while providing more than 3,000 free dance classes to students 6-18 and seniors in the community. Executive Director Jenny Hamilton oversees the busy schedule. Capping their semester, 200 student dancers will perform “The Nutcracker Suite” at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday . Admission is $5 and supports the program. Registration starts Jan. 7 for another season of free lessons in Jefferson, St. Bernard and Orleans parishes. Go to nobadance.com for information or call (504) 522-0996.

This is such a busy time of year. How are you doing? We’re all losing our voices because we’re in the middle of Ballet Hispanico and we’ve been doing morning workshops with the dancers throughout the metro area, and it’s crazy. We have our main stage production as well. And I just got back from New York with a group of students. It’s been a busy fall but unbelievably productive.

What is the biggest challenge for NOBA’s performance of “Nutcracker Suite”? All of the roles are danced by the participants in our program. We don’t bring in any outside dancers. So at every neighborhood center, all the children are assigned a specific role. One center might be all angels (or mice or soldiers). The first time they are all put together is the day before the actual production.

What part do the seniors play? The party scene at the beginning — we call it the grandparents’ scene. They come out and have a choreographed dance.

Why is “Nutcracker” such an enduring classic? It’s such a holiday tradition, and it’s an opportunity for families to come together and celebrate the holidays. It’s the dream of a lot of children to be a part of this production. The performance celebrates not only the holidays, but the accomplishment of that child. Dance is a sport; it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work.

What is your favorite part of the show? I love the whole thing, because it really brings the community together. These people are from all over and some have never met each other. And to watch our students have the opportunity to perform roles like the Sugar Plum Fairy is really special.

You are working with kids. What could possibly go wrong? You know, if they forget their choreography, none of that is “going wrong.” We have a phenomenal faculty of teaching artists, and when those students are on stage, they know exactly what they are doing. It comes from the heart of every single person taking part in it.