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The American Nutcracker is a Christmas classic performed by dance companies all across the United States but Ceres has its own version thanks to Steps Dance Arts Center.

The center has been producing the Nutcracker each of its 10 years of operation at 2959 Fourth Street in Ceres. While there's plenty of talent in Ceres, unfortunately there's no place in Ceres to perform it.

"I would perform it in Ceres but there's no place to perform it - at least not yet," said Artistist Director Charlotte Ewing. Even the recently completed Ceres Community Center is without a stage.

Thus, on Saturday, Dec. 19 a bunch of parents, relatives and the Ceres public will be driving to Johansen High School to watch the production at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per adult and $10 for children and seniors.

Ewing said her Nutcracker production is unique in that it's comprised mostly of Ceres dance talent and includes Glenn Miller style music.

"We have a lot of really good Ceres dancers that are dancing in our Nutcracker," said Ewing. "The grand majority are from Ceres but we do draw from Patterson, Hughson, Modesto, from Salida, Crowslanding."

Savannah Kimbro, 13, is one of the dancers of whom Ewing is especially proud. She was given the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

"She's such a beautiful dancer that when she went to the San Jose Ballet school for the summer program they put her in the professional level. She was only 12 when she did that. She's an exquisite dancer. There's going to be some really beautiful things come from her."

The Nutcracker prince, Izrael Duran-Soriano is also from Ceres, who has overcome a multiple sclerosis. "He's not supposed to be able to walk and he's out there dancing," said Ewing. "We take children like that and teach them just as if they're normal children. We have a little girl who's a Downs Syndrome child but you wouldn't be able to tell. We don't treat them like they need special treatment; we just keep pushing them along."

Ewing's studio, which employs five teachers, also conduct Ceres Parks and Recreation Department classes and specific classes.

"They all have their own classes ... that perform in the Nutcracker at various parts. Sometimes I could say 'I would like for your class to do the Chinese dance' so then that teacher teaches them the Chinese dance, and costumes them."

The watch for talented dancers starts from the beginning of the dance season in August when Ewing and the teachers get ideas on who to cast.

"Predominantly our students are now the ones that have grown up with me since 1999. They're now becoming company members. The kids are growing up to become such good dancers. They're now doing bigger roles. They're at that point and they're all very young - they're at Mae Hensley and freshmen at Ceres High School. I think this is really exciting because now we can actually say Ceres has a ballet company, a ballet school, even though we're small."

One of the homegrown talents includes Brooke Pietrzyk of Keyes who is dancing her first solo in the "Spanish Chocolate" dance.

Ewing said her center is becoming well respected and that her students are able to graduate into Modesto's Central West. "They know that if any of my students walk in that they have a well trained student and they're excited to have them."

A condensed storyline ballet of the Grinch was performed at the Ceres Christmas Festival and the longer version will be shown to parents prior to the Nutcracker show.