Father, daughter explosive combo in Ballet West’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Dec 19, 2022, 6:50 PM | Updated: 7:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” has become a holiday tradition for many families over the decades. The unmistakable music and the costumed dancers bring a beloved story to life each December.

Tony Thackeray described one of his favorite memories with his sister, Heather. “I grew up dancing and my sister, she’s a professional ballerina, we would perform together and watch each other grow up in different parts and roles,” he said.

He has fond memories of performing on the Capitol Theatre stage as a boy, and now he has passed that on to his daughter, Aria.

This is Aria’s third year performing in “The Nutcracker.” She said it’s exciting every time following auditions. “And it’s really fun when you make it because, like that night, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! I made it!’”

This season they do something dynamic together with Aria playing a key role. “I’m playing the cannon girl for the fight scene,” she said.

To set the scene, Clara, holding her nutcracker falls asleep near the Christmas tree and at one point in the dream fantasy sequence, the nutcracker’s soldiers fight the Mouse King and his troops.

Aria actually saves the day when she, as a soldier, sets off the cannon! As she does that, her dad, now a timpanist in the orchestra pit, creates the sound. He strikes a huge gong!

Ballet West’s ‘The Nutcracker’ returning to Capitol Theatre

It takes incredible coordination from the ballet master offstage to the dancers with the canon to the conductor in the orchestra pit who signals Tony to strike.

“And it’s so fun, because she’s doing the cannon and I’ve got to hit the gong right when she does the cannon,” her father said. “So, it’s kind of a little fun connection that we have, right?”

Aria’s role is the deciding part of the battle. “And then we win! And the nutcracker turns into the nutcracker prince,” she exclaimed.

These are indeed, exciting moments but it’s never lost on father and daughter how they fit into this professional production.

Aria says she has always loved watching her aunt Heather perform. “I like it because I get to dance with all these company dancers, like actual ballerinas and stuff.”

For the Thackerays and many other families, participating in “The Nutcracker” is no small commitment. It begins in September with auditions, then rehearsals and the Thackerays drive from Layton.

Tony remembered a conversation with a friend. “I was asked, ‘what do you do for Christmas?’ And I said, ‘ we’re, we’re doing Nutcracker. That’s just what we do!”

The Thackeray family has a message about “The Nutcracker.” Aria said, “They’re going to love it! It’s magical! And it just brings your Christmas joy like, to life, and like, when you go home, you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, that was so cool and so amazing! And I want to go back again!”

Tony said whether on stage or in the orchestra pit, everyone is aware of the audience and how much a part of the performance each person is. “It’s very much a community thing. But without ‘The Nutcracker,’ I don’t know how we would have December! I don’t know how we would have Christmas!”

Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker” is taken to new and dynamic heights for one father and daughter this season.

Performances continue at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City through Dec. 24.

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Father, daughter explosive combo in Ballet West’s ‘The Nutcracker’