Don't miss BalletMet's annual performance of a classic story

Onstage magic and dance

All it takes is the triumphant melody of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and the imaginative choreography of former BalletMet artistic director Gerard Charles to evoke a sense of holiday spirit for more than 100,000 Ohioans every year. BalletMet's "The Nutcracker" has been captivating Central Ohio audiences since its on-stage premiere in December 1974, telling the story of Clara's Christmas Eve dreams through the talents of generations of BalletMet dancers. Watch the story come to life in one of several performances at the Ohio Theatre this season from December 9–24.

Interview with Clara

Emily Gotschall has lived every young girl's dream-a couple of times. She was, and is, a ballerina. And at the age of 12, the Hilliard native earned the biggest role in the biggest production of the year. She danced as young Clara, bringing her Christmas fantasy to life in BalletMet's performance of "The Nutcracker."

"Oh my gosh, I was over the moon," says Gotschall, who is now in her 19th season as a professional dancer with BalletMet. She's danced in every version of "The Nutcracker" since she was a 10-year-old playing one of the nameless Party Girl roles in the annual holiday production. She's starred as young Clara a handful of times, and has performed as the adult Clara at least twice.

That first night as young Clara, though-"I remember it so well," she says. "It seemed like the whole story came to life on the stage for me. I remember it being pure magic. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's really true."

She says the production never loses its appeal for her. "It's such a major holiday tradition, here and in many other cities. It's something families do together, year after year; a night when the children get dressed up."

Afterward, as the dancers sit to sign autographs, Gotschall says seeing the amazement on the children's faces is a highlight each year. "It's adorable," she says, "to see how excited they are to see Clara, all carrying their own nutcrackers that their parents bought them for us to sign. For me it has always maintained that sense of magic."

Holidays a time of gathering at Native American Indian Center

Christmas is a celebration brought to America by the Europeans. But that doesn't mean that the end of December wasn't significant to the Native Americans, marked by the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and a time to come together.

The Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, at 67 E. Innis Ave., carries on that tradition with two ceremonies, hosting the Fall Harvest Feast in November and the Winter Gathering in December.

"We're the new face of native people today, and the goal is to acknowledge our presence here," says Ty Smith, the center's project director. "We numbered close to 90,000 in Ohio, but that's less than 1 percent of the state's population. But we represent in excess of 100 tribes. It's a very intertribal community across the state and into surrounding states."

Smith says approximately 200 Native Americans will come and go at the center throughout the Winter Gathering. "It's a time of family," Smith says. "There's a lot of love and spirituality involved in coming together."

And while traditions differ from tribe to tribe, Smith says the events serve as a time of sharing stories and cultures. "We encourage giving and selflessness," Smith says, "and we make the time and space for it."

Smith says the center provides meals for about 130 families during the Fall Harvest Feast and provides gifts to 100 children during the Winter Gathering.