The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 24, 2013

Mankato Ballet, Symphony Orchestra collaborating on 'Nutcracker'

Mankato Ballet Company and Mankato Symphony Orchestra have been dancing around the idea of collaborating for years.

During the symphony's annual Candy Cane concert, a few Mankato Ballet dancers have accompanied the “Nutcracker” piece in the past. But Eryn Michlitsch, artistic director of the ballet company, said both organizations were hoping to do something on a grander scale.

“It's been something that both organizations have kind of always wishfully thought, 'This would be so cool,'” she said.

So about a year ago, they came to the decision that the symphony would play live in the orchestra pit for all of this year's performances. The move years ago to the Ted Paul Theatre at Minnesota State University allows for 26 orchestra musicians to provide the music throughout the ballet.

“I think the experience of having that pit open and lit and seeing the musicians down there (will add a great deal),” Michlitsch said. “I love going to ballets with live music.”

Michlitsch said the collaboration also has posed several challenges. Mankato Ballet has been fundraising for the $15,000 needed to pay the orchestra. Funds have come from a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council grant for $6,000; $3,500 from the Mankato Area Foundation; a substantial donation from Cherry Creek Cabinetworks; and private donors. About $5,000 is still needed, she said.

Rehearsing without the orchestra present also has been challenging. Before, the ballet was performed with CD accompaniment, so they would rehearse by “track number.”

“Well, (orchestra music) isn't written in tracks,” she said. “It's been interesting to talk through it.”

The first time the ballet company and the orchestra will rehearse together is during the dress rehearsal the day before the ballet opens. But Michlitsch said she's confident the show will come together beautifully.

“It will be fun,” she said. “They're all professionals, and we have been in as much contact as possible.”

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