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Michigan Classic Ballet Prepares For Nutcracker Performance

FARMINGTON HILLS (WWJ) - They say talent is technique under pressure and that's true for forty young dancers from the Michigan Classic Ballet preparing for this weekend's Nutcracker in Farmington Hills.

WWJ's Kathryn Larson caught up with the performers, who experience rhythmic demands punctuating practice to ribboned slippers sashaying across center stage.

"From the beginning, you start at the bar just doing Pliés and Tombés and you eventually get up and it's more fun because you get on Pointe and you get to do a lot more," Geiger Ballet Student Elizabeth Ratze.

Ratze started her ballet career at the tender age of four and over the years, she's stepped up to the challenge.

"It helps teaches you determination and persistence and committment, because you have to be here so much and put in so many hours in order to get to the performance," she said.

Now at 17 and nearly ready for college, Ratze is ready to sparkle as the prima ballerina. She's not just playing a doll, but an ice princess and the coveted sugar-plum fairy in the school show. And, she's also had the opportunity to practice with top professionals -- like 19-year-old Nutcracker Dave Naquin, an apprentice in Grand Rapids Ballet.

Naquin said he hasn't gotten a big head even though he's wearing one giant painted basket for the role.

"It's kind of uncomfortable at first because, you know, it's bigger so it's a little heavier, and I have to try to keep my balance and everything. But once you keep doing it, you get used to  it," Naquin said.

The hand-designed costumes really raise the bar on the performance and the dozens of costume-moms work behind the scenes around the clock to get them ready for opening night.

Artistic Director Mary Celeste Geiger, an internationally known ballerina, said these students really get into the Nutcracker experience -- something she is very familiar with.

"It's a love-hate relationship," Geiger joked. "I've heard this music so many times, for 47 years I've heard this music. And in the old days it was on reel-to-reel and my teacher would rewind it and go 'Yeeeeeee,' so I even know Nutcracker backwards, probably."

But at the end of the day, Geiger said this is one show you don't want to miss.

"We work really hard to give our community a professional, high-quality performance. From the sets to the costumes, none of them are bought in a catalogue, they're all handmade. Just like my experience as a professional dancer, I've tried to bring it back to my community," Geiger said.

The show takes place on Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and on Dec. 4 at 3 p.m., at Mercy Auditorium -- located at 29300 W. 11 Mile Road in Farmington Hills. Tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for seniors and children.

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