It's a holiday favorite that many look forward to every year. The Nutcracker has become one of the most beloved ballets every written and for 17 years, the Southwest Virginia Ballet has been bringing it to life.

Opening night isn't until Saturday but Thursday night was all about perfecting the costumes, lighting and movements of a cast of more than 160.

From mice, to dolls, to grown ups dancing by the huge, ever growing tree , the Nutcracker brings back the nostalgia of the holidays with just a few notes.

"It's just the excitement. Every year it's a great holiday tradition to start or continue and it's just the excitement, the wonder, it's just a really great holiday tradition for me," Senior Dancer, Clayton Willis told Your Hometown News Leader.

But before the red curtain goes up, the cast must be fitted, coiffed, made up, altered, steamed and be able to hit their marks perfectly.

"Pedro sets the bar really high but it's our job to meet that expectation," Willis said.

Pedro Szalay is brings everything together. He's a former dancer and the artistic director for The Southwest Virginia Ballet. For him, this show is about bringing people together.

"Every year it's magical. Looking forward to working together with the community and to bring new people into this wonderful production because this is not my production, it's the production of the community."

Each year, open auditions are held for various parts and extras. But this show isn't just about the actors and dancers who grace the page; it's about giving back as well.

"We have expanded to three shows."  "To give opportunities to those in the community who could not come to a production like The Nutcracker and experience the magic without the free tickets that they get through many of the various human service organizations," Executive Director of The Southwest Virginia Ballet, Nancy Kelderhouse told WBDJ7.

And that's right in line with the spirit of the Nutcracker and the holidays.

Tickets are still available for all three performances.  If you do attend, organizers ask that you bring an unwrapped toy to donate to The Salvation Army. 

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