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Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre brings back live performances with 'Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou'

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BATON ROUGE - The Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre is practicing their final run-throughs in preparation for their annual performance of ‘Nutcracker: A Tale from the Bayou’ this coming weekend, but it will look and feel a little different this year. 

Ballerina Fiona Heffernan always dreamed of performing as the Nutcracker Azalea Fairy. 

“I've seen a lot of girls grow up and do that role at other studios,” Heffernan said. “And it's always just been the most beautiful role to me.”

While dancing for another studio in her hometown of Lake Charles, she anticipated having the opportunity to dance the variation her senior year of high school.

But, that chance slipped away once the Nutcracker was canceled due to the pandemic.

“My dance teacher was like, ‘Hey, guys…we're not having a nutcracker,’” Heffernan said. “All of us cried. We sobbed. It was horrible.”

When starting school at LSU, she joined Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre to continue dancing. This December, Heffernan is returning to the stage as the Azalea Fairy.

“It’s such a fun and jumpy roll, so it’s very exciting,” Heffernan said.

The Nutcracker is actually Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s first live performance in two years. 

“When you're not dancing in front of real people, there's just so much that you don't get,” said  Christine Perkins, Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s marketing and communications director and instructor. “But we're back, and we're so happy to have this opportunity to dance in front of real people again.”

And the well-known scenes are returning to the stage refreshed.

“And, just because this is back again, we've changed a lot of the choreography in a couple of different scenes. So it has a fresher look for people who have been over the years,” Perkins said.

But the change in choreography will not be the only adjustment the dancers will have to accommodate. 

“Typically this show would be in the theater, the Baton Rouge River Center theater, but its renovation was stalled by Hurricane Ida,” Perkins said. “So we had to move the performance to the River Center ballroom.”

Even though the company is not performing in the theatre, Perkins noticed the dancers are still ready to return to normal performances.

“I’ve never seen them so excited to put their pointe shoes on,” Perkins said. 

The dancers are almost as excited as the audience, who has been waiting for the Nutcracker’s return.

“The community’s response has been so overwhelming,” Perkins said. “They're so excited to get back to doing their typical holiday events.” 

As Heffernan plans to lace up her pointe shoes to perform in front of a packed crowd, she looks forward to the roaring applause.

“I can't remember what it feels like to be on a stage,” Heffernan said. “There's about 900 people staring at me. But as soon as you get on stage and the lights hit you, it's a really happy feeling.” 

It’s a feeling that Heffernan is excited to finally share with an audience filled with friends and family. 

The performances are Dec. 18 and 19 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day. 

Tickets are available only on the Ticketmaster website or at Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s office.


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