Madison dancer performs lead

Madison dancer performs lead


Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet will present  “The Nutcracker” on this weekend at Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center. A tradition for  audience members and dancers alike, the full-length ballet is the perfect opportunity to introduce younger family members to the art form. The beautiful sets, dazzling costumes and splendid  choreography are sure to please patrons of all ages. 

“The Nutcracker” has been part of the holiday tradition for Catelyn Winders of Madison since she was four years old. The now 12-year-old began attending the ballet with her mother several years before she joined MMB, a pre-professional ballet company based in Madison. Catelyn first performed in “The Nutcracker” with Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet at age 7. That year she danced the role of Candy Cane. This year she will dance the lead role of Clara. 

“I remember getting my first nutcracker at the gift shop. I would have never thought at the time that I would be dancing with a nutcracker on stage as I am this year in my role as Clara,” says Catelyn. “As a performer in the Nutcracker, I understand the Christmastime tradition even more now as I see other members of the community watching the ballet together as my mom and I once did. My mom and I continue to make memories in our roles now as an involved parent and a dancer of MMB.”

“The Nutcracker” follows the story of Clara as she attends her family’s Christmas party, where  she receives the gift of a nutcracker from the mysterious and magical Herr Drosselmeyer. After the  party, Clara’s nutcracker comes to life, battles the evil Mouse King, and takes Clara on a magical  journey. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are awed by the Snow Queen and her corps of Snowflakes in  the snowy forest before meeting the Sugarplum Fairy in the land of sweets. There Clara and the Nutcracker Prince enjoy dances or divertissements from around the world presented for their  entertainment. 

Winders is just one of approximately 150 local dancers cast in the ballet, all students at Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy, the official school of MMB. 

Academy owner and company  artistic director Jennifer Beasley said, ‘The Nutcracker’ becomes a tradition for the dancers and parents as much as it does for the audience members. We audition dancers for the Nutcracker in  August, begin rehearsals in September and perform excerpts of the ballet throughout the community beginning in November. Dancers have favorite roles that they work toward performing as they grow and develop.” 

Dancing the roles of Snow Queen and Dewdrop is MMB principal dancer Brelyn Binkley of  Brandon. MMB soloists appearing in the production include Rebecca Trowbridge of Madison, Eleanora Ellis of Flowood and Hart Maley of Jackson. Senior company members from Madison County include Avery Shiflett, Mary Emerson Swindell, Grace Gardner, Emily Garner, Sophia Huang  and Amelia McCaughan. Joley Cox, Caroline Ellis, and Annalyse Binkley are senior company members from Rankin County. 

Joining the local cast are Gabriela Mesa and Pau Pujol of Philadelphia Ballet dancing the roles  of the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier. Oscar Fernandez and Joey Dlearo of Ballet Memphis return  to the MMB stage this season. Fernandez will be dancing the role of the Snow King. Dlearo will appear  as the Nutcracker Prince.  

MMB’s “The Nutcracker” will be held on Saturday, December 3rd at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. and  Sunday, December 4th at 2:00 and 6:30 p.m. at the Jackson Academy Performing Arts Center.  Following the matinee performances, step into Clara’s slippers and travel to the Land of Sweets. In this  immersive experience, guests will have their personal passport stamped as they visit Clara, the Snow Queen, the Dewdrop, the Sugarplum Fairy, and more. Travel stops will offer character photo opportunities and souvenirs including a miniature nutcracker. The afternoon’s activities will be capped  with “Spanish'' hot cocoa and light refreshments from Nothing Bundt Cakes. 

Tickets for the performance are $30-$35. Land of Sweets tickets are $25 and are sold  separately. Both are available at or by calling 601-853-4508. An honor company member of Regional Dance America, MMB is a pre-professional, non profit ballet company based in Madison. Members of the company and the cast of “The Nutcracker”  are selected by audition from the students of Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy, with locations in Madison and Brandon.

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