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By: Christa Lawler
Photograph by Clint Austin
Duluth News Tribune
December 08, 2011

The Nutcracker” is the reason Reinhard von Rabenau has spent more than half of his life with the Minnesota Ballet.

He can trace his interest in dance back to when he was 8 years old, watching his uncle Karl von Rabenau perform as the Nutcracker with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, then telling his parents this is what he wanted to do.

“I liked that it was a big story — a Christmas story,” von Rabenau said. “All the tricks are amazing, and being the main story of the ballet was inspiring to me.”

The next time “The Nutcracker” season came around, he was in the role of the party boy and eyeing the role of Fritz. He eventually landed the coveted part of the bratty brother, then went on to weave his way through the other parts: Chinese, Rat King, Russian.

Such is the way of “The Nutcracker,” a production that incorporates both students from the School of the Minnesota Ballet and professional company members. If a dancer sticks around long enough, they can mark their progress from the kid roles to solos and to the pas de deux.

“Any ballet that stays in the repertoire a long time, you progress in it,” ballet master Robert Gardner said.

When the Minnesota Ballet’s production opens at 7 p.m. Friday [December 9th], von Rabenau will be in what he considers the premier male role — one he was tapped for last year before he was sidelined with a foot injury. Von Rabenau is dancing as the Prince on opening night.

“I love that he has a character to him,” von Rabenau said. “He has a story he’s trying to tell through ballet.”

This is the third season of this version of the production, set in the early 1900s, which includes Manhattan-themed visuals like Central Park, an idea conceived of by artistic director emeritus Allen Fields. Von Rabenau’s part has him sparring with the Rat King and saved by the dream-version of the young girl, Clara, danced by apprentice-turned-company member Megan Wolfson.

“I really wanted this part,” she said. “As of now, at this point in my career, it’s an ideal part. To me, Clara is the epitome of the joy of the holiday season.”

Wolfson already worked her way through “The Nutcracker” ranks back home at CK Dance in Palm Springs, Calif., ending up as the Sugarplum Fairy her senior year of high school.

© 2011 Forum Communications Co

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