Nutcracker Memories - 1992

By Hellie Schussler

October 14, 2014

Hellie remembers our first Nutcracker

It was 1992. The company (then called Opus Dance Company) had been officially created in 1989. The school – Opus II Dance Studio was begun in 1982. We had been performing Variations from The Nutcracker as small informal in-the-studio performances since 1986, and I remember my wish to create the full The Nutcracker and perform it with a full symphony orchestra. That was a big dream for a small-town youth ballet company.


In 1991 the, then, Managing Director of the Renaissance Theatre, Tony Miller, invited us to perform our Act II Variations. We did just one show – I believe it was on a Sunday afternoon, and it seemed like a very big deal to all of us. During rehearsals Tony, Curt and I had a conversation in the Renaissance lobby beside the old concession stands on house right which launched our vision. It was one of those “what-if” conversations. We said YES, let’s do it! So it began.


As December 1992 approached I remember having that “be careful what you wish for” feeling. I felt overwhelmed and out of my depth. I quietly thought to myself “What it I have bitten off more that I can chew” to quote another familiar old adage. I hope that Curt was the only one who knew my insecurities … but perhaps everyone knew! That’s probably more like it. Ha! Never the less, onward we charged, Mansfield Symphony Orchestra included, and we have never looked back. We did five performances over two weekends, and actually sold out three of those performances. Standing Room Only is music to the ears. We seldom hear that phrase, but we sure heard it loud and clear that first big year. I figure many of those audience members just wanted to see if what we were attempting was actually possible! Seeing is believing … though in our case believing came first.


Ashland Regional Ballet has performed The Nutcracker every year since that founding year in 1992, which was poetically, also, the 100th anniversary year of the ballet itself.


Who else remember that first Nutcracker? Any photos?  I would love to share your stories and pictures.


Hellie Schussler – Founder/Executive Director of Ashland Regional Ballet

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