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Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet opens 28th season with The Nutcracker


Under the direction of Jennifer Beasley, Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet opens its 28th season with the holiday favorite The Nutcracker. The production will feature guest artists from across the nation and over 120 local dancers in four performances on December 5 and 6 at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center.


The story of The Nutcracker follows Clara from her family Christmas party where she receives the magical gift of a Nutcracker from a mysterious guest. The Nutcracker comes to life, battles the evil Mouse King, and accompanies Clara on a journey through the Land of Snow and into the Kingdom of Sweets. There they meet the ethereal Sugarplum Fairy and are treated to divertissements, or entertainment, from around the world.


Madison County resident Grace Gardner will dance the lead role of Clara. Gardner, age 14, is a Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet senior company member. She has studied with Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy, the official school of the ballet company, for five years.


“When I found out I was cast as Clara I was ecstatic because it had been a dream role of mine, ever since I was soldier in my first Nutcracker,” says Gardner. Due to the quarantine in the spring, Gardner and fellow Mississippi Metropolitan students were limited to classes taught via Zoom. Gaining back her stamina has been one of the challenges of the role, she says. The silver lining has been building relationships with fellow dancers of all ages. “Dancing the role of Clara allows me to dance with the entire company from the young dancers to friends and all in between,” she says.


“No matter one’s age, there is surely something to please in Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker,” says Beasley. “Because we have such a loyal audience, we like to mix things up each year, changing a few details here and there. The constant is how the beautiful sets, sparkling costumes, mystery, magic and humor all combine to bring joy to our audience.”


Dancing the role of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier are Emily Carrico and Sergio Masero-Olarte, both dancers with Atlanta Ballet. Carrico hails from Lexington, Kentucky. She trained at Kentucky Ballet Theatre Academy, The HARID Conservatory and The Art of Classical Ballet. Before joining Atlanta Ballet, she danced professionally with Kentucky Ballet Theatre and Columbia City Ballet.


Masero-Olarte has previously appeared as a principal guest artist with Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet in the world premiere of Frozen Heart and in Cinderella. A native of Madrid, Masero-Olarte began his training at the Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danze Mariemma. He trained on scholarship at San Francisco Ballet School before joining Ballet Memphis as a company dancer.


Mary Kate Shearer will return to the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet stage as the Snow Queen in this year’s production. Shearer, a Ridgeland resident, trained under the direction of Beasley from age three through high school. She is currently a senior ballet major at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and a member of Indiana University Ballet Theater.


The role of the Nutcracker will be danced by George Sanders, a North Carolina native, who began his training at The Rock School for Dance Education and continued his studies at Ballet Academy East (NYC), Ecole Ballet in Australia and North Carolina School of the Arts. George danced as a corps member in the Carolina Ballet and as an artist with Ballet Memphis before becoming a freelance guest artist based in New York City.


“Our talented guest artists and local dancers look forward to bringing holiday cheer to our community,” says Beasley. “So many patrons kick off their holiday season by attending a performance of The Nutcracker. Although the audience will be socially distanced and some people may opt to attend via live stream, Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet continues to serve our community through productions of the highest artistic quality and the tradition of The Nutcracker.”


The Nutcracker will be performed at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6 at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $30-$35 and are available at Live stream offerings will also be available.


The cast of The Nutcracker is chosen through audition from students of Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy with locations in Madison and Brandon. Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet is a non-profit, pre-professional ballet company based in Madison. is an online news site covering Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.


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