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Visions of Sugarplums

Mia Saunders School of Ballet performs The Nutcracker.

It's that time again. Mia Saunders and her ballet students are gearing up for another production of The Nutcracker. With a cast of more than 70 dancers and hundreds of volunteers, the performances will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. at Centreville High School.

This year, the stars will be two Little Rocky Run residents — Molly MacKenzie and Kelly Tracy. They will be sharing the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy and the Snow Queen. Both dancers are seniors at Centreville High School. Tracy, who has been dancing with Mia Saunders since eighth grade, says she is very excited to be sharing the roles. MacKenzie has been dancing with Saunders since she was in kindergarten. Her first performance in The Nutcracker was as a clown.

"I love performing all the different roles each and every year, but more importantly, I enjoy being part of an organization that has donated so much to our community and has allowed me to be an active member of that donation," said MacKenzie. Recently, MacKenzie was offered a theatrical scholarship and was recognized as an all-star dancer.

The role of Clara will be performed by 11-year-old Marisa Righi, a sixth- grader at St. Andrew Catholic School in Clifton. She has been dancing with Saunders since she was 6 years old and this is her fifth performance in The Nutcracker.

IN THE PAST, Saunders has donated all the proceeds from the performances to different charities and organizations throughout the community like Ronald McDonald House, the Centreville Volunteer Fire Department, and the Special Olympics. This year, Saunders will donate money to the Centreville High Drama Boosters and Western Fairfax Christian Ministries. The drama booster club is active in fund-raising for the school's drama department. They set up concession stands at drama performances, sell ads for programs, and every year, they sell Christmas grams. Booster president Deanna Jones said that Saunders' donation will be used for scholarships.

"The seniors will go through a rigorous application process to determine who the best recipients are," said Jones. WFCM will be using its half on an Emergency Relief Fund for families in need. Saunders has been working with WFCM for three years.

Saunders believes that the arts can be a great outlet to both benefit others and it allows students to showcase their talents.

"I think it's wonderful that she donates the proceeds, it shows the real spirit of giving, what the season is all about," said Fran Legendre, who has been working with Saunders for eight years.

Legendre's favorite part of working with Saunders is raising the money and giving to the charities. "Ask anyone, I am like a mad woman running around trying to get money. I really enjoy helping the community," said Legendre. She also said that they are asking everyone who attends the performances to bring a can of food to donate as well.

The fund-raising will begin early this year. On Sunday, Nov. 28, MacKenzie and Tracy will be hosting a Sugarplum Fairy Tea Party. The event will be open to all Little Rocky Run residents ages 3 years and up. Both MacKenzie and Tracy will be dressed as the Sugarplum Fairy. The party will feature games, storybook readings, refreshments, and even a Sugarplum Fairy pointe shoe drawing. Attendees will also be able to have their picture with the Sugarplum Fairy. Tickets are $5 each. To make reservations, call Helen Martin at 703-815-0525.

THE NUTCRACKER PERFORMANCES will feature area residents who will be transformed into party guests, mice, soldiers, snowflakes, angels, clowns, and treats from the Land of the Sweets. Joining the cast this year are 12 adults.

Russ Day, of Little Rocky Run, along with his wife, will be performing as party-goers in the opening scene. Day has been working with Saunders for nearly 10 years and this is his eighth Nutcracker performance. He says that his favorite part of working with the ballet is being able to spend time with his daughters.

"I think that what Mia does it great, I support her and her company 100 percent," said Day.

"I am very proud of everyone. They all work so hard to ensure that everything is running smoothly. I have parents who volunteer to usher, sell tickets, make costumes, design the sets, you name it, there is someone who volunteers to do it. There are so many people involved in the process and they all work together to make the ballet a success," Saunders said.

Nutcracker ticket prices are as follows: $10 for adults; $8 for seniors; and $6 for students. To order tickets, call Christine Marshall at 703-222-3378.