Youth ballet debuts Winter Wonderland


November 30th, 2011

Omaha, NE – A new production from a long-time force on the Omaha ballet scene: Winter Wonderland opens this weekend.

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Robin Welch is the creator of Omaha's traditional ballet, The Imperial Nutcracker, which was performed at the Orpheum until 2009. (Photo courtesy HYB)

Robin Welch is the former artistic director at the now-defunct Omaha Theater Ballet. There for over 10 years, Welch is also the creator of Omaha’s traditional Christmas ballet: The Imperial Nutcracker. The ballet was performed at the Orpheum, and presented by the Rose Theater for many years, until the Rose announced in 2009 it would have to cancel it because of declining revenues. Almost two years later, it’s still a sore subject.

“Still too painful to talk about,” Welch said. “It was all very, very, very difficult in just so many ways.”

After Omaha Theater Ballet performed its final dance, Welch founded a ballet and theater school, Robin Welch Dance Arts, where she works with student dancers, many of whom came with her from the Nutcracker. Meanwhile, Ballet Nebraska became the city’s new professional ballet troupe. That group will put on its own version of the Nutcracker – also this weekend – which Welch said is an entirely new performance.

Welch said she does her best not to think about the closure of Omaha Theater Ballet. “We’ve got something really positive and wonderful going now,” she said. “We’ve started the Heartland Youth Ballet, which is a ballet company dedicated entirely to students to help them grow as performers and in their training, to give them performance venues and also to do a lot of outreach within the community.”

Artistic Director Rachel Vickrey works with dancers at Heartland Youth Ballet. (Photo courtesy HYB)

Welch said her school includes lessons in musical theater, tap, jazz, ballet and point. And she said she’s enjoying working with young dancers.

“Students are really working hard to grow and learn, and they’re wonderful to work with,” Welch said. “They have such an incredible yearning to learn. It’s so exciting to be around them and be a part of that process.”

Heartland Youth Ballet will perform its inaugural production this weekend. Written and choreographed by Welch, Winter Wonderland features a few favorites from the Nutcracker story including Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers. “I’ve been calling it kind of a musical theater ballet play,” Welch laughed.

Set on the night before Christmas Eve, Winter Wonderland is the story of a curious elf in Santa’s workshop, who wants Santa to tell her all about what he sees as he flies over the world. As Santa tells the story, the scenes are played out behind him in dance and theatrical performance.

“Some of the things that I loved in my career, being able to bring those same things to our students, and give them a wonderful venue to learn and explore everything, all these art forms that go into this, that’s incredibly exciting.”

Winter Wonderland will be performed with a cast of dancers from age seven to 60 at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center downtown Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2pm. Welch says she hopes to make the production an annual tradition in Omaha.

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