Images by Joseph Berger via Yalla PR
For many families in the Chattahoochee Valley, The Columbus Ballet's annual production of The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition that goes back nearly three decades. The Nutcracker will have two performances at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts this weekend, and this year's production will also be accompanied by a new additional event called "Mother Ginger's Tea."
Also new this year is the Ballet's Artistic Director, Toya Willingham. A dance prodigy, Willingham began her dance career at the age of three. Her dance education includes training at the Decatur School of Ballet, the DeKalb Center for the Performing Arts, and the Governor's Honors Dance Program.
Willingham comes to The Columbus Ballet's production of The Nutcracker with an extensive background in teaching choreography – even currently serving as the Assistant Director of Junior and Apprentice Companies at Decature City Dance. Her areas of expertise are classical ballet and pointe, as well as modern dance and tap.
We corresponded with Willingham to hear more about her experience working on this year's production of The Nutcracker, and to discover what she hopes audiences know before they see the show.
"Working with the cast has been great," said Willingham. "As with any major production, there is a learning curve wherein I get to know the cast and they get to know me. However, I have always enjoyed learning and working with dancers on all levels, seeing their progress and the production take wings and soar."
Willingham said that a production of this size comes with its challenges, but that everything has come together beautifully. "The main challenge was one of becoming familiar with the company and being able to work together," she explained. "I had to ensure I challenged their strengths and encouraged their weaknesses at the same time."
The Nutcracker has been a favorite of Willingham's for a long time. "I like The Nutcracker because of the composer," she said. "Tchaikovsky is brilliant and gave this story multifaceted artistry in his adaptation of the original author's story."
When asked what she hopes audiences know before they go? "I want the audience to know this performance is designed to include them," Willingham explained. "We want to transport them back in time to experience and enjoy the author's story and the composer's music which has made it one of the greatest ballets of the season. Come and enjoy!"
The Columbus Ballet's President, Jennifer Joyner, said they are excited and grateful to be presenting their 27th production of The Nutcracker. “Our community is fortunate to have extraordinary arts experiences," said Joyner. "I'm thrilled we can help bring such a magical one during the holiday season. This is greatly in part because of our generous donors, sponsors and loyal ticket purchasers making this a special family tradition. Joyner expressed her excitement for this year’s performance saying, “Each year we try to add something new and bring a higher level of professionalism that our audiences anticipate and enjoy. This year will be no exception!” ◼️
If You Go:
What: The Columbus Ballet's The Nutcracker
When: Saturday, December 16th at 7:30 PM and Sunday, December 17th at 2:30 PM. Where: RiverCenter for the Performing Arts
Interested in Mother Ginger's Tea? Click here.