Cullman Ballet Theatre School to perform ‘The Nutcracker’ Dec. 2-3


CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Ballet Theatre School is gearing up for its third annual “Nutcracker” performance Dec. 2-3 at Hartsell High School.

Owner and Instructor Elaine Willingham excitedly shared what sets their performance apart.

“My mindset when I started my school was to teach the kids the other story ballets,” she explained. “You name a story ballet, I’ve done it. I stayed away from ‘Nutcracker’ all these years because I’m between Huntsville Ballet Company and Alabama Ballet Company, both professionals, and everyone does ‘Nutcracker.’ Everybody who doesn’t even like ballet, knows about ‘Nutcracker!’” she exclaimed. “There’s a lot of Nutcrackers going on, all over Alabama, not just in Cullman. We’re the oldest premier ballet company and school in Cullman. I just don’t want people to forget that. A lot of people, it’s not their world, they don’t even realize we’ve got this stuff here.”

Willingham said while she loves her performance space near the school, this year’s performance is moving to a fresh space just north of the county line in Hartselle.

“I needed more seating space,” she explained, saying while her current space seats 140 people, given past attendance, she’s expecting a much larger turnout than that can accommodate. But even with more seating, a challenge was presented that the school took head-on.

“The only drawback is they don’t have the space for digital projections. So, we’re doing it the old-fashioned way!” she exclaimed.

Willingham said dancer Graciella Thomas and Liam Lanier have stepped up to combine their artistic talents to create a beautiful set in candy color accents. A traditional set means a traditional set transition, which opened up another role for a talented dancer from the school.

“I added a whole new section this year. We’ve never had a snow queen, but I added it,” Willingham smiled. “I have some beautiful sets on wheels that are being made for the land of the sweets, a live tree that we have grown. I mean, it’s a learning experience having to go back to that and never being in that theater before.”

She noted another change attendees can expect: a full performance, instead of a medley of popular excerpts of the story.

“The big thing we’re doing differently from other performances is we’re doing the whole story. There’s a full Act 1 and Act 2. We’re doing all of Tchaikovsky’s music, minus one little pas de deux,” she smiled, explaining the whole performance is about two hours including a 15-minute intermission.

“I’ve loved it, it’s really been neat!” said Willingham, noting they’ve been working on “The Nutcracker” since August.

Cullman Ballet Theatre School will present “The Nutcracker” at Hartselle High School Theater on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at

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