Christmastime on the First Coast just wouldn’t be the same without the Christ Church Nutcracker Ballet presented by Miss Felicia’s Dance ministry. Fortunately, the ever-popular event returns Dec. 9 for the troupe’s 28th annual performance.
About 150 dancers ranging in age between 3 (the show’s cherubs) and 85 (instructor Felicia Rhoden herself) will take the stage at UNF’s Lazzara Performance Hall to bring back the wonder of Tchaikovsky’s timeless classic.
Like other presentations of The Nutcracker, this performance has its own personality. After much pleading by the young dancers, Miss Felicia — who has been dancing strictly classical ballet since she was 4 — relented and allowed them to include a bit of hip-hop in the performance — so long as it remained dignified and classy.
That said, small variations won’t change the essence of The Nutcracker. It’s still the story of a girl who goes on an enchanting journey, meeting a number of whimsical characters amid an eclectic assortment of dances.
Rehearsals began in mid-August, everyone focused on recreating the high-quality experience audiences have come to expect.
“We’re working,” said Miss Felicia. “Working, working, working to try to make it a good, fun evening for everybody.”
She started the series 28 years ago after moving to Ponte Vedra Beach from Atlanta. At first, she had only 17 young dancers and, she said, “it grew and grew and grew and grew and grew.” The first productions were held at the church, but the cast outgrew that and it was moved to larger and larger venues, finally landing at the Lazzara theater, which opened in 2001.
Still, Miss Felicia tries to limit the size of the cast because it is important to her to know each and every child in the show. They do not have to be members of Christ Church, and in fact come from all around the area. Generally, they range in age from 3 to 18, though some dancers return from college to participate.
One of the most important aspects of the Christ Church Nutcracker Ballet is that all of the proceeds go toward good causes associated with children.
It supports an orphanage in Bolivia. It supports Dreams Come True. It supports pediatric hospice. And it supports St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to be able to write those checks after each Nutcracker and send them out to help these children and help their families,” Miss Felicia said.
Tickets for the Christ Church Nutcracker can be purchased at missfeliciasdance.com or christchurchdancers.ticketspice.com/the-nutcracker-winter-2023. The Dec. 9 show begins at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. The UNF Lazzara Theatre is located at 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville.