Toys Salute Soldiers with Holiday Classic

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2007 - It may be just a dress rehearsal for Clara, the toy soldiers and the Sugar Plum Fairy, but for servicemembers and their families in the audience, it's a big "thank you" from the cast of "The Nutcracker."

For the past four years, the Community Ballet Association of Huntsville, Ala., has recognized the sacrifices of servicemembers past and present with a special performance of the holiday classic. Originally a night reserved for a full-dress rehearsal, the association closed the performance and dubbed it "Military Night."

"The Huntsville community is comprised of thousands of military and their families, and many, if not most, of our students either are or have been affected by these conflicts," said Sherry Polk, president of the Community Ballet Association. "The dancers, staff, and board members involved take great pride in this production, (and) it gives us the opportunity to show our gratitude in a way that brings holiday cheer to (the servicemembers)."

Military Night is open to active duty military, National Guardsman and Reservists as well as retired military and their families. One valid military identification card admits the entire family, Polk said.

The Dec. 6 program will begin with a military color guard presenting the colors before the Pledge of Allegiance. Polk and select military personnel also will offer some opening comments before distinguished guests are recognized.

While the dancers always are excited about the chance to perform, Military Night is special to them, Polk said. Just having a live audience is a thrill, she added, but to have such a receptive and enthusiastic group energizes the dancers, adding to the special importance of the event.

"The strife in the Middle East had served to remind us in a very dramatic way of how much we owe to our men and women in military service, and how military families frequently sacrifice very much," she said. "It's gratifying to be able to do something so special for them."

The association is a nonprofit organization working to provide the community with programs that bring the physical and mental benefits of dance to a large, varied audience, Polk said.

This performance marks the association's fourth Military Night and its 39th annual production of "The Nutcracker."

*Related Sites:*
Community Ballet Association  [ ]
Toys Salute Soldiers with Holiday Classic [ ]