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“The Nutcracker is so much more than a ballet,” says Karla. “It is very much a holiday tradition. They [the kids] truly get excited about this every year: This makes their Christmas.”

In addition to having taken over as Executive Director from Degman-Boonan, Karla has also retained her role as Artistic Director and is responsible for rehearsals, music, casting, parental questions or concerns, costumes and anything else involved in the production part of the show, including overseeing the technical team that handles things backstage.

Karla, her staff and the students spend a little over two months rehearsing for the show. Each student who is cast in the production must spend a certain amount of time dancing at their respective schools, and once or twice a week rehearsing with the company. And while rehearsals may be several days a week for each student, The 40-50 students involved in the show means that rehearsals for Karla are 5 days a week. She says that scheduling is one of her biggest challenges, along with making sure every dancer in the production is getting the attention they need to be their best.

“They are all different ages and all different skill levels. One cannot expect a six year old to do the same things that a ten year old can. You have to know what they are capable of,” explains Karla.

Karla says that the best thing about being involved in ballet is seeing the excitement on the faces of the students when things come together and watching them progress, not only as dancers, but as people.

“You watch them grow through the show and progress through the parts year after year and its wonderful to see. You watch them deal with disappointment and learn how to be gracious when not getting a part they wanted. That’s life. To watch them become mature people is beautiful to me,” remarks Karla.

In terms of the upcoming Nutcracker show, Karla says that audience members can expect a clear flow of the classic story about a girl who is given a nutcracker for her birthday on Christmas Eve. When the girl falls asleep, everything grows to life size, and the nutcracker doll turns into a prince who takes the girl on a magical journey.

“Natural is the goal, and I think they audience will enjoy it.” said Kovatch, who points out that Mountaintop resident and Crestwood High School senior Danielle Gendler is the lead dance for the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. “All they need to do is sit back and listen to the music and enjoy what is happening on stage and the energy of these kids. “

Despite the pre performance jitters, Karla says she has confidence in her girls and knows they will make everyone proud. She hopes the audience recognizes and takes in the wonderful things happening on the stage during the performance.

“This is a live art, and they’re kids,” continued Karla. “As perfect as they can be in rehearsal, they may make mistakes and the audience should enjoy that they put their heart out on the stage.”

Ballet Northeast will offer several performances of The Nutcracker. December 18 7:30; 19th at 2:00 and 7:30 and 20th at 2:00 all at the Dorothy Dart Center. Admission is $15 for children and seniors and $22 for adults. Tickets can be purchased by calling Ballet Northeast at 570-821-

8525 or online at