Slip away into the fantasy of a classic Christmas tale that’s coming to South Jackson Civic Center next weekend, Dec. 8-9.

“A Nutcracker Fantasy,” produced by the Long School of Dance, has been rehearsed for many hours to deliver a one-of-a-kind performance to audiences. The magic will come to life and enchant viewers with graceful ballet performed by local talented dancers.

So what exactly will bring this performance to life? How about 106 costumes, more than 100 hours of rehearsal, 36 student dancers, 26 pieces of music, 18 volunteers, 17 adult dancers, 12 adult costume changers and runners, 10 set builders, 10 cleanup crew members, seven house staff, six backstage assistants, six eight-foot tall snow covered trees, four light and sound technicians, three teachers, a 10-foot woman, a nine-foot traveling swan and a 15-foot growing Christmas tree. Mixing these various elements together is sure to create a performance for the books.

“The Nutcracker” ballet is based on the story “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. There are many variations of the story, but the plot remains the same.

The story follows a young German girl named Clara who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince who battles a Mouse King with seven heads. The journey takes Clara to faraway lands, and together the Nutcracker and Clara explore a plethora of cultural dances that enhance the magical journey.

Long School of Dance will bring audiences along through the dream as the set is full of interactive and moving stage sets. Some of the props include a giant 10-foot woman who hides children under her skirt, a 9-foot swan that moves across the stage with grace and a 15-foot Christmas tree that grows as Clara enters her dream of the Nutcracker Prince.

Audiences can expect beautiful handmade costumes, precise staging and cultivating music.

“My favorite thing about ‘A Nutcracker Fantasy’ is watching my students rise to the occasion,” said dance instructor Jean Marie Ford. “It is so much fun to watch Clara and the Snow Queen begin to own their parts, and as they get more comfortable, we add more difficulty to their dances. We worked all summer long learning dances. When fall came around, it was great to see them want to stay after their regular dance classes just to rehearse their dances.”

Long School of Dance has been performing “A Nutcracker Fantasy” for 16 years.

“Performing at South Jackson is always an interesting proposition,” said Ford. “You never know what will happen in a building is as old as South Jackson. We spend over a week setting lights, painting and constructing set and hanging set pieces. We always add gel to the lights so that our dancers don’t wash out in the light, and it adds mood to the scenes. We also have hanging lit chandeliers, snowflakes flying in the air and three different backdrops. That is a lot to expect out of an old building, but it always seems to work.”

“A Nutcracker Fantasy” has been months in the making as students began auditions for their parts back in May. Once parts were assigned, performers worked all summer long on their dances, and really hit crunch time when fall rolled around.

Ford said most of her students live very busy lives outside of dance class. Most are in honors classes, AP classes, or are dual-enrolled in college and high school.

“I believe this show is going to be the best one yet,” said dance student Olivia Anderson, who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy. “I’ve been dancing since I was 4 years old, and it’s the only thing I really love doing. I love all the glitz and fluff of our handmade costumes. They’re very beautiful and bring our characters to life.”

Anderson is a homeschooled student who is dual-enrolled at Motlow State Community College. She aspires to be a career dancer.

Long School of Dance has been in business for approximately 40 years. Over the years, studio owner Beverly Long has contributed many hours of sketching costumes and bringing dance performances by talented local dancers to the community. She works closely with students, teachers and parents alike to make sure that all needs are met to make sure that all performances are the best they can be.

“This is a huge production,” said Ford. “We started the process in May, and we will culminate with two school performances and two public performances. It is truly a labor of love. I also think it is important for the children to appreciate what a historic building South Jackson is for the city. We always do our performances as a benefit for South Jackson to help preserve its historical significance.”

“A Nutcracker Fantasy” will take the South Jackson Civic Center stage at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec 9.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students. To purchase tickets in advance, call South Jackson at 931-455-5321 or buy them online at www.southjackson.org.

Tickets will also be available at the door before each performance.

For more information about the production, contact South Jackson, call Ford at 931-581-3383, or visit the Long School of Dance page on Facebook.

Faith Few can be reached at ffew@tullahomanews.com.