Robert Mills assembles classic Christmas ballet with 'Nutcracker' 

now; and the rich, colorful Kingdom of Sweets.

As part of the company's ongoing effort to replace older sets and costumes, some of which date back two decades, the production features new additions to the snow scene, a favorite of Mills'.

"Tchaikovsky's music is just incredible in this section and I always loved dancing with the snow falling around me onstage," he said. "Even when I've seen 'The Nutcracker' from the audience, I feel like it is the most beautiful part, both musically and visually."

These additions include a set of classical tutus, each handmade with Swarovski crystals, tulle and brocade. 

"Each costume is a little over $1,000, so it can become quite an undertaking, which is why we are replacing different scenes every year," Mills said.

"The Nutcracker" has special meaning to Mills, who, over the course of his career, has performed in almost every child and adult role available to a male dancer in the show.

"I cannot count how many performances of 'The Nutcracker' I have done over the years," he said.

As a 9-year-old dancer, he recalls being awestruck by the professional dancers in the production, "looking up to them" and trying to copy their techniques.

"I remember being so excited and taking my role very seriously," he said. "Looking back, I was probably pretty precocious. But, I wanted to make sure I did my part well and be a part of the greater whole."

RESPONSIBLE
He later worked behind the scenes in numerous "Nutcracker" productions. He said the biggest transition was going from being responsible for only yourself as a performer, to being responsible for every player in the production.

"As a dancer, you are so consumed with your technique and your presence on the stage, and that is as it should be. But, as a director, you have to think about each of those individual performers, the crew, the artistic staff, the sets, the costumes, the theater and its capabilities, and on and on," he said. "I love the challenge of taking a production from its first rehearsal or production meeting, to the stage for its opening performance. There is so much going on behind the scenes that the audience member is not aware of."

Mills said that his relationship with the ballet has become more personal and that his greatest inspiration is watching all the children rehearse and perform.

"'The Nutcracker' is very often the first performance a young ballet student participates in, so of course, the learning curve for them is incredible," he said. "They are so excited and bug-eyed at the theater, costumes, sets and professional dancers. I remember what that was like, and I want them to have an incredible experience, yet one that they can learn from, as well."

The Nutcracker stages at 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday presented by the Oklahoma City Ballet at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker.

"?Eric Webb

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