The Nutcracker is coming to town. For two nights, the Denison Dance Academy will present the Nutcracker Ballet.

The ballet will show at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Kidd-Key Auditorium in Sherman with a cast of dozens ranging in age from 3 to 60 years old.

For weeks leading up to the performances, the Denison Dance Academy studio is always abuzz with laughter and activity. Sunday’s rehearsal included the entire cast with the main characters in costume. With few interruptions, the dancers performed the entire program with only a 10-minute break in the middle. The whole performance has the feel of holiday, family and fun.

Three of the main characters have been dancing with Director Ilona Nogarr from the first Nutcracker in 2011. They each will have multiple roles this year and still talk about how much fun it is to perform with friends in a group.

“I love being on stage,” sugarplum fairy Hope Ratliff said. “I like making people smile.”

Spanish and Russian dancer Elizabeth Smock loves the group dances and dancing with friends.

“I like dancing together,” soldier and Spanish dancer Emma Lee Lovell said. “I like connecting with other people and having fun.”

Layne Sparlin has been studying for five years. She will play Clara this year as well as one of the Spanish dancers.

“I like that friends are dancing with me,” she said. “I like to do make up.”

Joseph Kesper has been studying for a year and a half with Nogarr and will be the Nutcracker this year.

“I also like the group dance,” he said. “It is amazing to see the audience’s reaction to what is on stage.”

Even though Nogarr has owned and taught dance studios in California and Virginia, the Denison Dance Academy is the first of her studios to perform the Nutcracker. Nogarr opened and started teaching in Denison in August 2011, just months before the first Nutcracker Performance in December 2011.

One of the biggest changes from 2011 to 2017 is that in 2011 the youngsters shared the spotlight with professional dancers, Darli (Nogarr’s daughter) and Anton Iakovleva and other experienced dancers. This year all the main characters are played by students of the Denison Dance Academy and trained by Nogarr.

Nogarr stresses that a serious ballerina needs to develop skills and athleticism in many forms including gymnastics, muscle toning, tap and jazz as well as ballet. If it is possible, it is good to practice and study five days a week, not just two. Nogarr feels that dance like any physical ability “keeps you young and healthy and that makes you feel good about yourself.”

For more information at the Nutcracker performances, call 903-337-0196. Tickets are available at Denison Dance Academy Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets will also be available at the door from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $5 for 12 and under. Kidd-Key Auditorium is located at 400 S. Elm Street in Sherman.