Metro-East Living

“The Nutcracker” kicks off holiday season

Kayla Sanders, left, Amanda Bradley and Clarissa Pavao dance a scene from “The Nutcracker” at a recent reheasal.
Kayla Sanders, left, Amanda Bradley and Clarissa Pavao dance a scene from “The Nutcracker” at a recent reheasal.

Aimee Nieroda can’t help but get a little emotional seeing her three daughters on stage in “The Nutcracker” each year.

The 40-year-old Caseyville homemaker performed in the Christmas ballet many times when she was growing up in St. Louis.

“It’s pretty special for me, just to watch them do what I used to do as a kid and really enjoy it,” Aimee said. “Not just performing, but also hanging out with their friends and working so hard to prepare for the shows. It brings back memories.”

Belleville School of Ballet and the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra will perform “The Nutcracker” for the 32nd year Nov. 21 and 22 at the Scottish Rite Bodies Theater.

“It’s become a holiday tradition,” said Patti Woods Harrington, the school’s director. “Many people start the holiday season by coming to a performance.”

About 120 dancers and actors, including children from throughout the metro-east and eight professional male ballet dancers from St. Louis, will be accompanied by 60 musicians.

As usual, the local cast will be joined by New York-based professional dancers Anna Liceica and Vitale Krauchenka.

“They have become part of our family,” Patti said. “We sometimes forget that they’ve danced all over the world.”

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 1:30 and 5 p.m. Nov. 22.

120 Dancers and actors in “The Nutcracker”

60 Musicians who will accompany them

The lead of Clara will be played by the same three girls as last year: Morgan Courtney, of Millstadt, on that Saturday night; Kylie Rehg, of Belleville, on Sunday afternoon; and Ashleigh Farmer, of Shiloh, on Sunday evening.

“We always make small changes every year,” Patti said. “This year, we added snow flurries (as characters).”

The Nieroda family will be represented by Josephine, 12, who plays a party girl, a soldier, a snowflake and a Russian; and Emerson, 9, who plays a twin party girl, a mouse, a snow flurry and a Polichinelle.

Delaney Nieroda, 7, will play a cherub and the white mouse. She cheerfully points out that she is the only mouse with pink eyes on her headpiece.

“I have a lot more stuff to do than I did last year, so it’s funner,” said Delaney, a second-grader at St. Clare Catholic School in O’Fallon. “I’m also excited that I get to dance with the big girls.”

All three sisters started ballet lessons when they were toddlers.

Like Aimee, Taran Holdener performed in “The Nutcracker” as a girl, but she never stopped. This will be her 24th show with Belleville School of Ballet.

“I started studying with Patti when I was 3 1/2,” said Taran, 33, a high-school math teacher in O’Fallon. “The Harringtons are like my second family. I became friends with their daughters. It was just a way of life.”

Last year, Taran played a party mom in “The Nutcracker.” This year, she didn’t hesitate when Patti asked her to take over as Clara’s mother.

“There is some dancing that the parents do,” Taran said. “It’s a party scene. But I’m not doing point or anything. It’s more of an acting role.”

For the first time, the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra is encouraging early sales by charging $20 at the door. Ticket prices will remain $17 for advance purchases (through 6 p.m. Nov. 20).

“When you change a system that’s been in place for 32 years ... I want people to be very aware of it and have a chance to buy their tickets in advance,” Patti said.

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

At a glance

  • What: “The Nutcracker”
  • Who: Belleville School of Ballet and Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Where: Scottish Rite Bodies Theater, 1549 Frank Scott Parkway West in Belleville
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 1:30 and 5 p.m. Nov. 22
  • Admission: $17 in advance (through 6 p.m. Nov. 20) or $20 at the door
  • Tickets: Call Belleville School of Ballet at 618-277-1373, download an order form at, stop by the school during open hours or visit