The Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) proudly presents The Nutcracker on Fri. and Sat., Nov. 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. In its forty-third year, NFB’s The Nutcracker remains the only full-length version of the classic holiday fairytale in the area and features live musical accompaniment by the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra (NFSO) under the direction of NFB Music Director David Ott.
NFB’s production includes a cast of over 140 performers, including over 100 local children and international guest artists.
Guest artist Oliver Halkowich will delight audiences as the Nutcracker Prince and Harlequin Doll. Halkowich began his professional dance career in 2001 with the Boston Ballet and a year later joined Houston Ballet as a Corps de Ballet member. There, he rose through the ranks to First Soloist, dancing for 19 seasons with the company. Halkowich has danced various classical, contemporary and character roles in Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardee, Stanton Welch’s Cinderella, George Balanchine’s Rubies and Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free. Also a talented choreographer, he debuted his first solo commission, Following, for Houston Ballet’s 50th Anniversary season in 2019.
NFB soloist Luciana Ato will dance the role of the Snow Queen with guest artist José Soares as the Snow King. Soares will also perform as the high-flying lead Russian. One of 10 children selected to study ballet at Bolshoi School, Soares trained under Dmitry Afanasiev and Galina Kravchenko and was rehearsed by Vladimir Vasiliev. After graduating from the Bolshoi School, he was accepted into the Trainee program at the Joffrey Ballet and went on to dance with the Milwaukee Ballet’s second company. Soares has danced principal roles with Lake Erie Ballet in The Nutcracker and Dracula with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet. He was also invited to dance in Kansas City with Concept Zero and later with the Chicago Opera Theater. He currently resides in Alabama, where he teaches at the Andalusia Ballet Academy and performs in freelance roles.
Ato will also share the role of the Dew Drop Fairy with NFB company member C’Jae Ransom. The Arabian pas de trois will feature NFB company member Ava Elpedes with NFB soloist Timothy Knoll and NFB alumni and guest artist for the season Keegan Lloyd.
The NFSO, led by David Ott, will provide live musical accompaniment making NFB’s The Nutcracker a truly unique cultural experience. In his seventh year as the NFB Music Director, Ott has been cited among America’s most-performed composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music and Grammys, he has an extensive portfolio of compositions in every genre of music, from large-scale orchestra works to short overtures. Some of the most distinguished American and European orchestras have performed or recorded his works.
The NFSO is the Emerald Coast’s premiere professional orchestra and is under the leadership of Music Director Todd Craven. The 65-piece ensemble resides at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center and features internationally acclaimed guest soloists and emerging local talent.
Box office-priced tickets for The Nutcracker are $40 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets will be available at NFBallet.org or through the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box Office beginning Fri., Oct. 21. The Signature Season sponsor for The Nutcracker is Emerald Coast Magazine. NFB is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.