Taking in season’s magic

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Magical Christmas moments will glide down the street, roll down the rail and tiptoe across the stage this month inviting families to enjoy a dreamlike holiday season.

“I don’t think it would truly be Christmas without “The Nutcracker’,” said Alabama Dance Academy director Pam Merkel. “I love watching the children — from little to lead — seeing the excitement in their eyes, the nerves. They celebrate each others’ successes, and it’s wonderful seeing them creating those memories.”

Visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy began dancing in both Heather Hall’s and Jordan Henry’s heads as young girls.

Both young women will get the chance to perform the role Dec. 13 when they dance across the stage at Oak Mountain High School in the academy’s annual performance of the ballet. Hall is set to dance as the fairy at the 2 p.m. show, Henry at the 7 p.m. performance.

“‘The Nutcracker’ has always been one of my favorite ballets,” Hall, a junior from Spain Park, said. “I enjoy the atmosphere that it creates.”

The ballet draws you into Clara’s dream. Pulling you into the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets, it conjures up beautiful images of Christmas.

Decked from head to toe in colorful costumes as baby angels, mice and candies, 150 students are set to perform the ballet. The dancers began rehearsing in September with just two months to prepare.

“It’s a given Christmas tradition because it is more of a family-friendly ballet,” Henry said. “It’s a lot of fun to perform and to watch. There are little kids running around the stage and their parents chasing after them.”

Everyone in the dancers’ families get involved each year.

“For a production like this you need parent help, and we are fortunate that we have parents who know how to sew or who are willing to learn if they don’t,” Merkel said. “We even have dads that get involved building sets. It’s a great way for dads to get involved in what is often seen as a very girly thing.”

This year alone, the mothers pulled together to recreate marzipan costumes and Mother Ginger’s costumes. The group of parents started planning the upgrades this summer.

Merkel said there is definitely something special about this performance.

“You’re watching future dancers and to me that brings a freshness to it,” Merkel said. “These girls thrive on their performances and there’s something very exciting about that.”

Other events set for this month allow big imaginations to capture the magic of the season.

The Polar Bear Express

The train ride starts from the Heart of Dixie Railroad in Calera and takes kids of all ages to the land of reindeer, polar bears, Santa’s Workshop and twinkling lights. You can visit Santa, sing Christmas carols, enjoy a bedtime story and a snack. Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas.

Advance reservations are required. All seats are $24. For tickets, call 1–800–943–4490. Rides are held on Fridays — Nov. 28, Dec. 5, 12 and 19 at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m.; Saturdays — Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13 and 20 at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sundays Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and 21 at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m.

Santa Special

Santa rides the train from the Heart of Dixie Railroad with riders. Kids can tell him what they want for Christmas, take pictures with him and get a candy cane. These events will be Fridays — Nov. 28 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Saturdays — Nov. 29, Dec. 6, 13 and 20 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; Sundays — Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and 21 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Christmas Tree Lightings

Hoover City tree lighting Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. and Pelham City tree lighting Dec. 1 at 6:15.

Winter Wonderland

The Pelham Skating School presents Winter Wonderland on Ice Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. All of the school’s figure skaters and class skaters will perform to a holiday and winter theme. Tickets are $7. Children under 3 will be free.

Christmas parades

Vincent will host its town Christmas parade Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. Alabaster’s Christmas Parade from downtown to Buck’s Creek will be held Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. Helena Christmas Parade begins at 2 p.m. Dec. 6 through Old Town. Chelsea’s Christmas Parade begins at Chelsea Intermediate School Dec. 20 at 10 a.m. and ends at Winn Dixie.

Grebel Dance’s Nutcracker

Grebel Dance and the Alabama Youth Ballet Company performs its fifth-annual production of the Nutcracker Dec. 20-21 at Pelham High School. The company invites the public to come enjoy Clara’s journey. The performance includes a celebrity guest as Mother Ginger. Performances will be held Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 11, when purchased early. Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $7.50 for children under 11.