FRED RAMOS | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

Thousands experienced a unique holiday tradition at the McAllen Performing Arts Center Saturday afternoon, with a show that included classically trained Russian dancers and local ballet talent. They danced to the story and music created by the famed master composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892.

The show took Valley children in the audience to “The Land of Peace and Harmony” and included life-size dancing puppets, a 60-foot growing Christmas tree, huge Russian dolls and a eye-opening two-person Dove of Peace costume.

Edinburg resident Mariano Manzano was there with his 10-year-old granddaughter Meadow. They’ve attended the Nutcracker performance for the last four years. He says watching the show is a great opportunity for young people in the Valley.

“They get to see different performers from different countries, such as Russia, where obviously ballet is emphasized … I love seeing all the kids here,” said Manzano.

When asked why she enjoyed the Russian Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, Meadow was straight to the point.

“You don’t really see a lot of that everyday and it’s cool,” said Meadow.

The Nutcracker revolves around a story about a family and their friends in 19th century Russia. They decorate a Christmas tree and a party begins. Afterwards, toys are handed to the children. But at night, as the other children sleep, one child remains awake and the magic starts. All the toys suddenly come to life. What follows is a fantasy land of wonder and amazement.

Amanda Kauffman was there Sunday to see her brother William performing as well. He was a featured performer in the “Spanish Dance” portion of the ballet.

“I’m very proud of him. I’ve seen him perform many times,” said Kauffman. “This is his third Nutcracker this season.”

As a former dancer, Kauffman says the audience plays an important part in the success of a production like the Nutcracker.

“The best thing is the crowd’s reaction, such as hearing the applause. It’s really fun. It helps you smile and stay on point,” said Kauffman.”It reassures you that you are doing your job, and you are doing it well, and people like it.”

The McAllen Performing Arts Center opened in 2016 and presents a wide variety of nationally recognized productions of music, dance and theater to South Texans, in addition to the Nutcracker. Gabry Tyson, Russian Ballet spokesperson, says the Russian Ballet is making plans for another performance in McAllen next year.

“The response has been great from the people, about the performance and the costumes and the set. It’s been well received,” said Tyson.

In addition, Valley patrons can enjoy watching talented local children hired to perform in the ballet. “While it is a internationally touring company, some of the people may know some of the local kids performing,” said Tyson.

She added that the Nutcracker is a must see during the holiday season. “It’s not Christmas without the Nutcracker.”

When the Nutcracker was first performed in Russia over 100 years ago, it was meet with mixed reviews. But according the Nutcracker’s target audience, each year the ballet is performed in McAllen, it’s considered a crowning success. Just ask 10-year-old Meadow. “I’m coming back next year,” she said with a smile.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correctly identify Amanda Kauffman.