The Tyler Junior College Academy of Dance will present its 31st annual production of the classic holiday ballet “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 6-8.
“‘The Nutcracker’ is such a beautifully magical ballet,” Carolyn Hanna, director of the TJC Academy of Dance, said. “I love changing the choreography each production, so every year there’s something new to see.”
She continued, “This year we have more than 150 dancers and actors, and you can definitely feel the excitement on the stage. These dancers have been rehearsing since September, so the end result will be something quite remarkable. With the TJC Academy of Dance, TJC Dance Department and other excellent dancers from around East Texas, we are delighted to present this production to the community every December.”
Performances are set for 7 p.m. Dec. 6, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 8 , in Caldwell Auditorium, 300 S. College Ave. in Tyler.
Admission is $15-25 for reserved seating. Main seating is $10 for seniors ages 65 and over, TJC students and employees, and children under age 12. Tickets are available online at TJC.edu/Nutcracker.
Assistant choreographers are Shurrell Wiebe, Thereza Bryce-Cotes and Kristi Franks.
This year, the principal dancers and guest artists are Rayleigh Vendt and Walker Martin from the Oklahoma City Ballet.
Vendt is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, but began her serious ballet training when she moved to Tyler and joined Ballet Tyler. She trained in ballet and pointe with Kym Lanier and Thereza Bryce-Cotes and started her classical modern training with Shurrell Wiebe.
With Ballet Tyler, she performed in ballets such as “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cats,” and the role of Wendy in “Peter Pan.” When she was younger, she performed as an angel in TJC’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
“Having Rayleigh Vendt join us again this year as our principal guest artist is completely thrilling,” Hanna said. “She is an incredible dancer, and the fact that she trained here with our same TJC professors years ago is a testament to their incredible instruction.”
Hanna continued, “It shows the dancers in our academy and dance department that, with hard work and determination, obtaining your goal is absolutely possible. This is a great opportunity for East Texans to see these extraordinary dancers from Oklahoma City Ballet.”
Vendt went on to train at Lisa Slagle’s Ballet Academy of Texas in Coppell, then joined Cincinnati Ballet as a trainee in 2012 and performed roles with the company in Septime Webre’s “Alice (in Wonderland)” and Victoria Morgan’s “Romeo and Juliet.” She was a part of Ballet Austin II from 2013-2015, where she danced George Balanchine’s “Agon” and Nick Kepley’s “Season of Innocence.”
Since joining Oklahoma City Ballet as a corp de ballet member in 2015, she has since performed in many ballets, including featured positions like the Kissing Girl in Agnes DeMille’s “Rodeo” and as the Russian Girl in George Balanchine’s “Serenade.” She has most recently danced in the pas de trois in Robert Mills’ “Swan Lake” and performed in Helen Pickett’s “Petal.”
Martin trained with Penny Askew at the Western Ballet Academy in Clinton, Oklahoma, and performed with its affiliated pre-professional Regional Dance America company, Western Oklahoma Ballet Theatre. He also studied in New York City on scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Summer Intensives and was named an ABT National Training Scholar from 2009 to 2011.
Martin continued his training at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, where he performed with Houston Ballet in Ben Stevenson’s “The Nutcracker” and Stanton Welch’s “Cinderella” during the 2011/12 season. He then danced with Ballet Quad Cities for a season before joining Oklahoma City Ballet in 2013. He was promoted to soloist in 2016.
With Oklahoma City Ballet, Martin has performed lead and feature roles, including The White Rabbit in Septime Webre’s “Alice (in Wonderland),” Melancholic in George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments,” The Champion Roper in Agnes de Mille’s “Rodeo,” Benvolio in Robert Mills’ “Romeo and Juliet,” The Jester in Mills’ “Swan Lake,” Hans in Mills’ “The Nutcracker,” Puck in Mills’ “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as well as the title role in Paul Vasterling’s “Peter Pan.”
Local Cast Members
East Texas performers in this year’s “Nutcracker” production are: Brynn Allen, Lankston Arthur, Ellis Ann Ashwood, Michelle Azzi, Claira Barfield, Emily Bennett, Mary Bennett, Emma Bertrand, Christie Blaser, Adley Bolton, Rachel Boone, Faith Boose, Madison Bowser, Camila Bravo, Layla Brown, Jenna Broyles, Avery Bryand, Bella Burton, Paxon Bush, Laney Cannefax, Molly Cannon, Jessica Carmona, Bailey Carpenter, Hector Ceccoli, Autumn Chamberlin, Ginger Christiansen, James Coats, Kali Cole, Mackenzie Copfer, Faith Craig, Winter Cummins, Karsyn Cunningham, Augustine D’Eramo, Rebecca Dai, Qwynnen Davis, Sanea Dews, Michelle Dong, Caleigh Duquette, Baylee Elam, Mae Mae Ewing, Christopher Fisher, Ona Foreman, Claire Foreman, Haley Foster, Alison Franklin, Julie Franklin, Stella Franks, Kara Gandy, Kylie Gandy, Isabella Garcia, Lisa Genovese, Savannah Gregory, Jules Gregory, Holly Griffin, Regan Hamby, Maggie Hayes, Aubrey Henninger and Sophia Hine.
Also: Skyla Horace, Hannah Hughes, Kyndra Hulen, Allison Jarvis, Sophie Jernigan, Kileigh Johnson, Keegan Johnson, Yuki Jones, Lucy Kelling, Liberty Koerbel, Annabel Langford, Jennifer Lansou, Verani Ledesma, Keren Lee, Kaylee Lesniewski, Jules LeVrier, Zoe Lissner, Betsy Lopez, Melany Lopez, Jazleny Lopez, Lucy Anne Mackintosh, Audrey Martin, Nalani Mata, Aymette Mata, Adian Mata, Zoe Grace Mazzare, Brooks Mazzare, Cecilia McCain, Eliza McCain, Addison McHam, Claire McKeown, Lesli Mendoza, Kendall Merrick, Lydia Middleton, Paris Mims, Emma Mitchell, Heidi Moreman, Sara Moseley, Frances Moseley, David Moseley, Patrick Moseley, Sydney Moseley, Reese Mottatt, Catalina Cabanzo Murcia, Evan Nachman, Delia Nava, Maddison Nehls, Alexander Newton, Leely Nguyen, Dacey Ogrodnik, Cara Olney, Carlos Ortiz, Marianna Ortiz, Anastasia Oxler, Addison Petty, Brooklyn Petty, Allie Phillips, Sarah Beth Pierce, Stella Ramirez, Ainsley Rhodus, Kalli Richardson, Alison Roden, Alayna Roseberry, Landry Rowan, Piper Rowan, Lyla Roycroft, Audrey Scarborough, Grace Schoenberger, Lily Schoenberger, Chaysee Sepko, Sydney Sharp, Emily Slaton, Sarah Slaton, Dylon Stewart, Jon Stone, Isaac Stone, Charlotte Stuebing, Layla Sullivan, Joslyn Swinney-Dewberry, Kylie Switzer, Yadhira Tavera, Jill Taylor, Carmen Taylor, Brooklyn Thomas, Madison Thompson, Remi Tidwell, Addison Townsend, Elisabeth Vahovius, Gabriella Volberding, Wynne Washmon, Suni Weatherby, Ellen Weatherby, Alyssa White, Molly Whitener, Elexis Wiebe, Brynn Wilder, Cassidy Winborn, Aniston Wirzberg and Ava Womboldt.