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'The Nutcracker' with a sweet twist

'The Nutcracker' with a sweet twist

“Clara’s Candy Land Adventure” is a fresh, sweet take on a classic.

Turning Pointe Dance Company’s production of “Clara’s Candy Land Adventure” is a contemporary retelling of the Christmastime classic “The Nutcracker.” Performed on a two years-on and two years-off schedule, the show is becoming a holiday staple for many in the Martinsburg, W.Va., area.

Kat Adams formed Turning Pointe Dance Company in 2011 and staged the first “Clara’s Candy Land Adventure” in 2012.

“I think that people relate to it really well because it has something for everybody in it,” Adams said. “It’s more entertaining than the typical ‘Nutcracker’ because the music appeals to a wider audience. The style is more approachable than straight classical ballet.”

Turning Pointe is the pre-professional company of Rhythm ‘n Motion Dance Studio. Adams, who serves as artistic director, said seven company members star in this year’s performances at The Apollo Civic Theatre, while around 34 apprentices round out the cast. Dancers range in age from two to 16 years old.

“It is a mixed genre show that follows the typical ‘Nutcracker’ storyline. There is a little bit of jazz, modern, tap and gymnastics,” she said, as well as ballet and ballet en pointe.

The score includes some familiar melodies from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” along with swing and big band sounds of Duke Ellington and the swing and jump blues of The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Adams choreographs “Clara’s Candy Land Adventure.” Her students tend to be more interested in jazz and hiphop than ballet, she said.

“Dancers, especially in today’s society, relate a lot better to this version. We do it because the choreography is more modern and consistent with the styles of training that most students are interested in. We offer a wide genre of styles in this show and it’s exciting to the students.”

Audiences respond favorably to the production as well.

“We get a very positive response,” Adams said. “People get excited to see something different than any version of ‘The Nutcracker’ than they have ever seen. It’s definitely not traditional. People enjoy that fact, that it is a fresh take on a classic.”

Characters and scenes familiar to those who have seen the traditional “Nutcracker” remain, such as Clara, the Mouse Queen and the battle scene. But instead of an act two featuring dances hailing from various countries as in the classic, Adams’ version offers an assortment of candies.

“We have gummy bears, candy canes, cotton candy, taffy, gingerbread girls, lollipops. We have synchronized swimmers in a river of chocolate that runs through Candy Land,” she said.

Though the basic choreography remains the same each year, “some parts are adapted to the different strengths of each dancer.”

Some dancers begin as gummy bears and eventually work their way toward dancing as the Sugar Plum, which Adams said is “the most coveted role in the show.”

Allison Mark portrays another highly sought after role in that of Clara. Allison, 12, of Hedgesville, W.Va., has been dancing for about nine years.

“I’m a military brat,” she said. “I’ve been with Turning Pointe for about three years.”

She danced in “Clara’s Candy Land Adventure” last year as Laffy Taffy, which corresponds to the traditional role of an Arabian dancer and requires outstanding flexibility.

“I’ve had a few people tell me that when I was taffy, it hurt them to watch because of the stuff I had to do,” she said. “I think that people leave with sort of just feeling that, ‘Wow! That must have been hard to do and they probably worked a lot on that.’”

This year, her role as Clara includes ballet, acrobatics, jazz and other dance disciplines. Allison dances a duet with her brother Ethan Mark, 14, who plays the role of the Nutcracker.

She especially enjoys the jazz numbers, which she describes as “technical and sassy sometimes.”

She’s happy to dance in the show and to be able to “amaze people in a way that they feel so happy about.”

“The story is based off of Christmas and I feel like it’s really like a stepping stone in order to get into Christmas. Like people think, ‘I get to watch this show and then Christmas is here!’”

If you go...

What: “Clara's Candy Land Adventure”

When: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.and 7 p.m.

Where: Apollo Civic Theatre, 128 E. Martin St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Cost: Advance tickets $12 for ages six and older, $5 ages five and younger. Tickets at the door $15 ages six and older, $8 ages five and younger. Admission for infants sharing a seat is free.

Contact: Go to Clara's Candy Land Adventure on Facebook

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