Ballet Des Moines announces seven performances of a BRAND NEW Nutcracker including free student perf

Des Moines’ only professional ballet company follows in the footsteps of companies across the globe removing cultural stereotypes for a more thoughtful inclusive production.
Des Moines, Iowa (November 15, 2021) - Ballet Des Moines has announced their 2021 production of The Nutcracker, expanding to a second weekend of performances this year. As the state’s professional ballet company, audiences can expect to see a performance led by ten professional dancers alongside hundreds of students from 34 Central Iowa dance studios starring in the production. 
“This production is so much more than a local dance studio’s holiday recital,” said Blaire Massa, CEO for Ballet Des Moines. “Our performances feature a full professional company of dancers who rehearse for six hours a day to ensure the performance transports the audience to a magical holiday wonderland that will be both familiar and surprising.”
A Refreshed Act Two
The tradition of The Nutcracker, set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, dates back to the 1800s, making its way to the United States in the 1940s. The story of Clara and her Christmas Eve dream usually takes audiences on a magical journey to the Land of Sweets. For the past ten years however, ballet companies have been making an important shift away from the cultural appropriation found in Act Two, replacing Chinese, Arabian, and Russian stereotypes with scenes and characters that imaginatively bring the classic music to life in breathtaking new ways. This year, Ballet Des Moines joins the rank of some of the most recognizable ballet companies in making this leap. 
“Ballet has more to offer than imitation and re-enactment. We are inspired to use our art to bring a wide range of relevant stories to life,” said Tom Mattingly, Ballet Des Moines’ Artistic Director. “We hope everyone can find something personal to connect to in our performances, whether it’s the bravado of a young stag, the sparkling beauty of a Dew Drop Fairy, or the wonder of a child’s imagination.”
The new set of characters will come to life through the help of local fashion designer Sarah Dornink, who joined the ranks of Ballet Des Moines creatives this season as Wardrobe Director. New
York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and co-owner of the previous East Village retail outfit Dornink Couture, Dornink has been developing updates to classical tutus and bringing to life completely new characters for dancers aged six through professionals. 
“The opportunity to develop costumes for such an iconic production is a dream to say the least,” said Dornink. “Knowing this is a first step forward into a new storyline is a special thing to have the opportunity to be involved with.”
Education & Outreach: A Reimagined School Show Experience
This year, Ballet Des Moines will partner with CultureALL to expand its annual educational matinee performances to feature a selection of diverse cultural expressions of celebration, family, and storytelling alongside excerpts from The Nutcracker. This educational and vibrant performance will be geared towards young audiences, grades 3-6, and provide a foundation for further cross-cultural discussion about arts, culture, and heritage. 
“While The Nutcracker will be a foundational part of this show, it will not be the sole focus,” said Beau Kenyon, Director of Education & Outreach for Ballet Des Moines. “Rather the intention of the performance is to investigate different cultures through the lens of artistry, storytelling, and cultural identity that is passed down through generational celebration.” 
In addition to live educational performances, new this year will be a virtual behind-the-scenes option, allowing classrooms across the state to have access to the show, along with a classroom discussion and reflection materials for teachers to guide meaningful discussions with students before and after the performance. 
Ballet Des Moines presents The Nutcracker
      When: December 10-12
      Where: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave, Des Moines, IA 50314
      When: December 17-18
      Where: Staplin Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Ave, West Des Moines, IA 50266
      Visuals: Hoyt Sherman Dress rehearsals, Staplin Center Dress rehearsals, scheduled time at the BDM Costume loft with designer Sarah Dornink, in-studio dancer rehearsals with newly appointed Ballet Des Moines Artistic Director Tom Mattingly
“Des Moines is privileged to have a forward-thinking dance company that still honors beloved holiday traditions like The Nutcracker but in a more thoughtful way,” said Mattingly. “I’m thrilled to be creating work in a community so invested in the arts.”
For additional events and appearances related to The Nutcracker, visit
Ballet Des Moines was launched as a professional ballet company in 2012, bringing world-class performing artists to the Des Moines community for classical and contemporary main stage productions. Ballet Des Moines offers training opportunities for pre-professional dancers and engages thousands of local youth each year through rich educational and outreach programs. The mission of Ballet Des Moines is to enrich lives through inspiring dance performances, inclusive education and outreach programs, and innovative community partnerships.