Record crowds see Yukon ‘Nutcracker’ …. a Christmas tradition

Yuletide ballet celebrates 25 years

Party guests are mesmerized as Clara (Amanda Herd-Popejoy) dances with the wooden nutcracker in the opening party scene. (Photo by Allie Overton)

By Conrad Dudderar

Associate Editor

Record crowds came out last weekend to enjoy a Yukon Christmas tradition that marked a quarter century this year.

Lorenzo Agramonte and Diana Gomez take center stage for the Spanish Chocolate dance. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Central Oklahoma Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker was presented Saturday night, Dec. 7 and Sunday afternoon, Dec. 8 inside the spacious Yukon Fine Arts Auditorium, 850 Yukon Ave.

Celebrating 25 years in Yukon, The Nutcracker was performed by professional guest artists alongside local dancers. Each performance featured the music of Russian composer Peter I. Tchaikovsky presented live by the Oklahoma Community Orchestra with conductor Irv Wagner.

Central Oklahoma Ballet artistic director Debra Vossen welcomed audience members to “celebrate the magic” of this delightful ballet.

“The Nutcracker is a great art experience,” Vossen said. “Thank you for sharing your holiday season with us and have a Merry Christmas.”

Dewdrop (Diana Gomez) and the Flowers. (Photo by Allie Overton)

Having professionals and amateurs dancing in the performances is a “great combination,” Vossen added.

Featured professional dancers were Jillian Barrell who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nayon Iovino who danced the roles of the Nutcracker and Cavalier. Barrell and Iovino are members of Ballet Arizona.

Yukon’s Amanda Herd-Popejoy, who has more than 17 years of experience with Oklahoma City Ballet, danced the role of Clara. Herd began dancing in Yukon’s Nutcracker as a child in the role of a Cookie.

The Russian (Jace Pauly) earned the loudest applaud from the audience. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Other professional guest artists were Diana Gomez (Dewdrop and Spanish Chocolate) of Tulsa Ballet, Lorenzo Agramonte (Chinese Tea and Spanish Chocolate) of Tulsa Ballet, Jace Pauly (Russian and Soldier Doll) of Oklahoma City Ballet, Carrie Ruth Trumbo (Snow Queen and Arabian) of Oklahoma City Ballet, and Nicholas Keeperman (Mouse King and Arabian) of Oklahoma City Ballet.

Among featured local performers were: Christopher Day (Godfather Drosselmeyer), Amity Bevard (Kissy Doll), Grace Sanchez and Chelsea Nebe (Harlequin Doll), Kirk and Jean-Marie Otto (host parents), Radley Hutchison (Fritz), and Ginger LaCroix (Mother Ginger).


Mother Ginger (Ginger LaCroix) and her adorable Cookies delight the audience. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

LaCroix, along with Larry Taylor and Maggie Fuchs, were recognized on stage after each performance for having been part of Yukon’s Nutcracker production since it began 25 years ago. Marge Brakefield also was honored for her longtime contributions.

Yukon’s Nutcracker was first presented in 1994 on the modest stage inside the Yukon Museum and Arts Center (Old Central School).

The Nutcracker moved to the 3,000-seat Yukon Fine Arts Center in 2000, and audiences have steadily grown since then.

As snow begins to fall, Clara (Amanda Herd-Popejoy) is taken back home on the sleigh at the end of the performance. (Photo by Allie Overton)

“We went from a small venue to a large auditorium,” Vossen said.

The Yukon Nutcracker’s choreographer offered special thanks to Wes McAtee and the YHS Fine Arts Center’s stage crew, technical director Steve Estes, stage manager Justice Von Maur, and Central Oklahoma Ballet board president Allie Overton.

Yukon’s Earline Smaistrla and Phil Carson are among local notables who danced the role of parents in the opening party scene. (Photo by Jack Hinton)

“I want to thank our board of directors,” she said. “They have Nutcracker in their hearts.”

Donations made in memory of past Central Oklahoma Ballet board president Patti George and board member Susan Drennen helped the local ballet company purchase new costumes and props for this year’s performances.

Yukon’s Nutcracker production was supported by the Oklahoma Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, corporate sponsors, and Central Oklahoma Ballet patrons.