Columbus Ballet performs 'The Nutcracker'

It will be the first time in 16 years that Columbus Ballet director Maria Hirsch will not have her husband, Kenneth, at her side. He died in August after a long battle with cancer.

Directing and choreographing "The Nutcracker" has been nothing but therapeutic for her, she said.

She's confident that the 80 dancers are ready to perform the holiday classic. The ballet will be performed with a live orchestra, the Columbus State University Philharmonic, conducted by Paul Hostetter.

Hirsch, who also teaches ballet in the CSU department of theater, said she recruited some of the dancers from the college classes, including the parents in the party scene.

Dancing the pas de deux as the Cavalier is Noele Dupuis, a freelance ballet dancer from Marietta. Dancing the role of Sugar Plum Fairy is Ashley Moss.

Ashley, 17, a Northside High School senior, is ready for the tough role, though she had to wait for Dupuis to get to Columbus this week to practice with him.

Berkley Beach, 16, a junior at Columbus High School, performs with her sister, Harley Beach, 15, a CHS freshman. Beach dances the role of Arabian. Berkley is doing the Spanish variation.

For the four dancers playing flowers in the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" scene, "The Nutcracker" will be the first time they perform en pointe.

They are Jessica Nix, 13, a home-schooled seventh grader; Helene Kilgore, 15, a Columbus High freshman; Sofia Romero, 14, a home-schooled ninth grader and Gracie Pippas, 13, an eighth grader at Brookstone School.