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Dancer performs in Reno show

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

For Tahoe-Truckee High School freshman Jessica Felich, who has been dancing since she was three years old, classic roles such as Clara in “The Nutcracker” are old hat.

But as one of the youngest members of the Area 51 Dance Theatre Company, Jessica, 15, will encounter her biggest challenge yet as the futuristic Kalea, who is transformed into a space goddess in the company’s second year production of “The SpaceCracker,” a sci-fi futuristic reworking of “The Nutcracker.”

Kalea is one of the lead roles in “The SpaceCracker,” which is a far-out trip into the future.

Instead of a kindly godfather’s Christmas Eve gift of a nutcracker to a little girl, the scene is an embassy reception sometime in the future, at which the eccentric Professor Sanazaun presents a mysterious machine called a SpaceCracker to the ambassadors as a gift of peace and understanding for the Alliance of Nations. The curiosity of the ambassadors’ daughter, Kalea, results in an accident that causes the SpaceCracker to distort reality and transform her into a space warrior who takes on the Forces of Chaos.

This hypermodern original production, choreographed and conceptualized by Elizabeth Weigel, the company’s founder and artistic director, uses a storyline by Reno scriptwriter K.A. Peterson. Opening night is Jan. 5 at the Flamingo Showroom in the Reno Hilton and the production will run through Jan. 7. Joining Felich from the area are dancers Kayla Peterson, a Truckee Elementary School student, Sherrie Peterson, owner of Sierra Nevada Dance studio, Kari and Aly Raymer of Kings Beach and Samantha Marsh, a Glenshire Elementary student.

“I fight Chaos and I lose and the leader of Chaos is about to kill me,” Jessica said of Kalea.

“This is the biggest role I’ve played. With nine dances total, it’s non-stop … The fight scene especially is really acrobatic. I get flipped all around. And the party scene is in reverse. All of the moves are in reverse and the music plays backwards too … It’s not your typical dance, it’s so creative and interesting.”

Jessica said now that she is moving away from ballet to modern dance, she is having more fun with the creativity that’s involved.

She has been a performing company member with Area 51 since she auditioned over a year ago after performing a smaller role in “SpaceCracker’s” premiere production in 2000. She is one of the youngest of the full company members by almost seven years and is enthusiastic about Weigel’s philosophy of dance as an art form. She was accepted to the company on scholarship two auditions in a row.

Area 51 Dance Theatre is a non-profit professional dance organization dedicated to integrating dance arts into the cultural community through education, innovative artistic performances and making dance an accessible art form for all audiences.

Often the company will perform in odd locations throughout Reno, such as on a baggage claim terminal in the Reno Airport where Jessica played a bird and her entire performance took place off the ground while a male dancer lifted her.

“I was afraid of heights at first but I’m not anymore,” Jessica said. “I had a ton of bruises after that one.”

Jessica began dancing when she was three years old, after her grandmother introduced her to the classical ballets Firebird, Giselle, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. She currently dances with Area 51 as well as Sierra Nevada Dance and has worked with Renee Chambers, Molly Arboghast, Kyle Tucker and Sherrie Peterson.

And now she is doing everything she can to fit a lot of dancing into her busy schedule. Lately, she has been coming home from rehearsals in Reno after 10 p.m. and dances every day during the week but Fridays. She works on her homework during a free period in school and takes ballet as an independent study in physical education.

But she said she’s not nervous about this production; not yet anyway.

“Probably the night before I’ll start feeling nervous,” she said. “But once I’m on, I’m usually O.K.”

“The SpaceCracker” performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $10 for students or seniors and $15 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased at the box office at the Flamingo Reno Showroom, 255 N. Sierra Street in Reno or at the Melting Pot World Emporium, 888 S. Virginia Street.

For ticket information, call (775) 322-1343.


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