The Ballet The Community Built
Twenty-two years ago, Loretta Grella Sorbello had a dream: to make a production of the Nutcracker that would involve the entire community. This year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the holiday favorite performed by Space Coast Ballet under the direction of Joseph Gatti — a show critics have hailed as “the greatest thing to hit the Space Coast.”
A Christmas Tradition for the Whole Family
The Nutcracker combines the beautiful classical music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky with the ETA Hoffman story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” about a young girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes alive on Christmas Eve and battles the evil Mouse King. It’s been a holiday favorite for generations.
“You don’t have to love ballet to enjoy The Nutcracker because it’s a great story,” said Grella Sorbello. “It’s got a lot happening and it’s entertaining for children, as well as adults.”
A Local Production to Rival International Troupes
One of the most popular ballets, it’s often performed by international traveling troupes. However, after watching a visiting performance at the King Center, Grella Sorbello and her friends Janna Kirova and Boris Cheplev felt like they could create an equally good show with local talent.
“When I spoke with the King Center, they said they would schedule us to perform but would give us one year to prove that we could surpass the quality of the international traveling ballets,” she said.
The trio set to work. Kirova and Cheplev, former performers in the Kirov Ballet, used their connections to commission the sets and costumes directly from St. Petersburg, Russia. The set was specifically made for the King Center and is still used today.
“It’s the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen,” Grella Sorbello said.
They hired the Brevard Symphony Orchestra to perform the music and auditioned dancers from all over the county. Two years later, their first production received critical acclaim, but Grella Sorbello said the best part was the audience reaction.
“When the curtain went up, people gasped,” she remembered, her joy still apparent even after 20 years.
However, she’s most proud of the people who fill that stage with music and dance.
A Community Production
With the exception of the orchestra and five professional dancers, everyone from board member to tiniest mouse is a volunteer. Dancers from ages 3 to adult from studios all over the area participate, with nearly 150 in the cast, plus another 150 working the lights, sound, set, props, and taking care of the dancers.
“We try to find a place for everyone,” Grella Sorbello said. “That’s one of the things that stands out — we’re inclusive of the entire community.”
The result is a legacy, not only for the audience but for the dancers. Grella Sorbello said they have many families that participate, sometimes multiple generations in a production. One couple, Gary and Kathleen Weidmore, has been in all 20 productions.
If you’re looking for a way to kick off the holiday season that is both traditional and truly local, then the Space Coast Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker is a must.
If You Go
What: Space Coast Ballet’s 20th performance of the Nutcracker
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, 3865 N Wickham Road, Melbourne, FL
Cost: Adults: $29 - $54
Title 1 schools and organizations that work with underserved groups should contact Space Coast Ballet for information on free or reduced-price tickets.