Kayla Rhodelander, Katrina Brooks, Brooklyn Egli and Natasha Simonian The Nutcracker Suite

Dancers, from left, Kayla Rhodelander, Katrina Brooks, Brooklyn Egli and Natasha Simonian as snowflakes in “The Nutcracker Suite,” presented by Legacy Ballet Foundation.

“The Nutcracker Suite” is a holiday tradition, but Legacy Ballet Academy is creating a learning experience for its dancers. 

The cast of dancers—whose leads attend Cactus Shadows, Deer Valley, Boulder Creek and Sandra Day O’Connor high schools—will hit the Madison Center for the Arts’ stage with guest artists Darren McIntyre of Australia and Jeffery Griffith from Friday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, Nov. 24. 

“The staff and I are very committed to having the legacy, the history of dance, the creators of ballet techniques preserved and passed on to the kids,” says Samantha Gobeille with Legacy Ballet Academy. 

“We want to pass on the flame of dance history and vocabulary. We love watching the legacy they leave at our studio and what they’re going to do in the world. Our kids have blossomed and have had so many opportunities around the country and world.”

“The Nutcracker Suite” begins with young Clara and her family’s holiday party. A magical performance ensues by the toys Uncle Drosselmeyer, Clara’s godfather, has given the children. Clara is given the most special gift of all—a wooden nutcracker.

After Clara retires to bed, the magic begins. Clara and the Nutcracker embark on a journey to battle the Mouse Queen. They travel through the beautiful snow and to the Land of Sweets, where Sugar Plum and friends are brought to life by the magic of the season.

The leads will star with 100 students ranging in age from 6 to 18. 

“Our kids span from Peoria to Cave Creek, to Carefree and Anthem,” Gobeille says. “Our show encompasses kids from kindergarten through seniors in high school. 

“The dancers have been rehearsing with male teachers, but they won’t meet Darren until four days before the show. They have to rehearse very quickly with him. Those girls have to be quick enough and competent enough to step in with a completely new partner. That’s something a lot of people who aren’t in theater don’t know. When we bring in a guest artist, we rarely get them seven days prior to the show.”

She adds the girls, who are 14 and 16, can handle the challenge. 

“It’s not like they’re brand new,” she says. “We train them with the expectation of that.”

The organization provides a serious experience. Legacy Ballet Academy hosts such fundraisers as popcorn sales and relies on corporate sponsorships to collect the thousands it needs for costumes. “The Nutcracker Suite” boasts 11 moving backdrops and sets and more than 60 volunteers to help with it. 

“The show is very exciting,” Gobeille says. “We have a $60,000 budget for what we do every year to present the show—backdrops, special effects and lighting, the theater costs. We have $18,000 in costume inventory. The children don’t purchase these things.”

Legacy Ballet Academy is big on educating the community as well. The staff acknowledges its shows may be the first ballet members of the public may have attended. 

“We love giving back to the community,” Gobeille says. “We give free performances. We use our skillset to help fundraise for this. We give away eight scholarships a year to participate in our show. 

“The foundation also gives free tickets to veterans for all of our performances. We offer programs for foster children in Phoenix. We want them to learn the history of the ballet, tour the stage and then see the performance.”

Legacy Ballet Academy donated 450 tickets to the Madison School District so children can attend its assembly. 

“One of our biggest grant needs is getting funds to provide more opportunities for schools to have free shows like this,” she says. “We’re proud of what we do.”