The return of Pinkerton’s ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet |

The return of Pinkerton’s ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Cara Dopf, 12, of Carson City, gets airborne as she rehearses her part as the marzipan candy-dancer soloist for "The Nutcracker" at Pinkerton Dance Studio on Saturday morning.

At age 50, Gail Ruff took up a new hobby – ballet. She joined the Pinkerton Dance Academy in Carson City around the time the academy was beginning preparation for an inaugural performance of “The Nutcracker.”

For the past 18 years, she has participated in almost all performances of the show.

“I started taking it by invitation because it seemed fun,” Ruff said. “I wasn’t sure I could do it, but it has just been enjoyable.”

For the studio’s 18th performance of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, Artistic Director Ayako Britt said there are significant changes from previous years, including new lead dancers.

“We make changes according to our cast because the ages and numbers of the cast are different every year,” Britt said. “The way the show is designed depends on the cast. We do open auditions and see who we have and begin to put the show together.”

The cast features 70 performers ranging from ages 4 to Ruff’s 68.

The Sugar Plum Fairy will be played by Harriet McMeekin, of the Oakland Ballet. David Bier, of the San Francisco Opera Company, will play the Cavalier.

The most significant change to this year’s performance may not be what’s added, but what’s missing. Longtime Artistic Director Vickie McMaster, who has worked on the performance for 14 of the 17 years is working on other projects this year.

“She’s been doing it with us since we started,” Britt said. “It was her connections that helped us get the performers.”

Britt said she looks forward to the months of work it takes to prepare the show.

“I love all the dances. The kids always say, ‘Oh no, that music again,’ but I never get tired of it,” Britt said.

For her part this year, Ruff will play the grandmother in the party scene that takes place before the Nutcracker comes to life and battles the Mouse King.

This year’s cast will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday at the Carson City Community Center. Tickets are $24 for general admission, and $18 for seniors and students.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.

A short history

• “The Nutcracker” ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” by E.T.A. Hoffman. The ballet as it is commonly known was written by Peter Tchaikovsky and was first performed on Dec. 5, 1892, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.

• Tchaikovsky lived between from 1840-1893. Although he wrote several famous ballet scores including “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty,” he was most revered for his operas. “The Nutcracker” was his first work.

– Source: National Arts and

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