Christmas Ballet Extravaganza in Jackson, MS
This Christmas season, Jackson, MS has been filled with opportunities to watch beautiful ballerinas on stage. The weekend of December 8-9, both Ballet MS and Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet presented performances of the Nutcracker. I had a treat of attending both! As a child, I had the privilege of playing one of the “party girls” and a gingerbread in my own dance studio’s Nutcracker. When I hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s classic, I can almost remember the choreography! The following weekend, Ballet Magnificat had its performance of The Return of Snow Queen and I was delighted to attend it as well.
During the matinee performance of Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet’s Nutcracker at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center the weather outside was dreadful. But the set on stage was so beautiful and realistic (I have a feeling that dance dads put a lot of effort into them—it paid off!) that I was immediately transported away from the icky weather. The little ballerinas dancing as mice were the cutest rodents I’ve ever seen. This year, Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet had guest ballerinas starring as the Sugarplum Fairy and her cavalier. Sitting beside me during the show (and even holding my hand), was the flower girl from my wedding. I hope that watching this lovely performance makes her want to stay in ballet! When I was her age, I used to love watching the “big girls” on stage and dream of growing up as talented as them. I left the show fondly remembering my own days as a ballerina. The entire performance was a joy to watch.
On Sunday, I saw Ballet MS’s matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Thalia Mara Hall. The grand theatre in the very heart of Jackson lent itself beautifully to this fantastic show. Before the ballet began, a touching tribute was made to a former Ballet MS student, Frances Anne Fortner, who passed away earlier this year. I really appreciated that Frances was recognized for her hard work in past years’ productions of the Nutcracker. One of her old costumes was even displayed in the lobby along with information about a scholarship fund in her name. In addition to the traditional symphony music accompanying this ballet, this performance featured several different instrumental versions of songs I had never heard before. Ballet MS’s guest stars included medalists from the 2018 International Ballet Competition, also held at Jackson’s own Thalia Mara Hall. The effects were stunning and the dancers’ technique was flawless — the show was truly a work of art.
The very next weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Ballet Magnificat’s performance of The Return of Snow Queen, also at Thalia Mara Hall. I was unfamiliar with the storyline at first, but the dancers and their acting did a great job of telling the story and keeping the audience engaged. Costumes and props were professionally done — almost every dancer wore a wig and there was even a live Pomeranian on stage! In addition to beautiful classical music, there was also a refreshing touch of more modern, Christian music, which was inspiring, and different from the other ballet productions I’ve seen. It highlighted the essence of Christian faith and every believer’s daily battle with sin: when challenges and temptations of the world pull us into a trap and away from the Lord, it is through studying the Scripture, through the wisdom of God and through knowing God and His character that we can be saved and find our way back to the Father.
Another thing I loved about this show was the dancer portraying the Snow Queen, Kathy Thibodeaux, a Jackson native, the creator and the executive and artistic director of Ballet Magnificat. This marks her 50th year dancing on Thalia Mara Hall’s stage! It’s rare to see any athlete or artist dedicate that many years to their profession. Kathy truly captivated the audience with her majestic performance, worthy of a queen. The Return of Snow Queen had unique and mesmerizing choreography. This show was nothing short of spectacular.
Each of the companies had very talented dancers of all ages, starting as young as 3 years old, and the ballet performances really put me in the Christmas spirit. It’s hard to pick a favorite! You’ll just have to go next year to decide for yourself — there’s no such thing as too much ballet!
I feel so blessed to live in Jackson, where ballet is so appreciated and embraced. It’s so endearing to see little girls with their big hair bows and smocked dresses and boys in their plaid shirts and bowties. Children know it’s a special occasion when they get to dress in their best! They will remember these incredible performances when they think of their favorite family Christmas traditions.
P.S. A local ballet production is a wonderful place to teach your child proper theatre etiquette—remaining quiet and in one’s seat, making sure they don’t block the views of others, and of course, no cell phones whatsoever. At a ballet like The Nutcracker, there are sure to be lots of other children learning the same thing, so try to be patient if they don’t get it quite right the first time.