A family tradition takes on special meaning for mother and daughter With a cast of more than 100 dancers, Kingwood Dance Theatre’s performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a holiday tradition to be presented Dec. 16 - 18 in the Atascocita High School Theatre, which is located at W. Lake Houston Parkway at Will Clayton Parkway. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Nutcracker performance in Kingwood this year, the Rowland Ballard School of Dance family will include second-generation dancer Lily Katherine Belle Agnew, daughter of Kelly Agnew. A 9-year-old, fourth-grade student at Shadow Forest Elementary, Lily is the oldest of three children. She has been taking ballet at the Rowland Ballard School of Ballet since she was 3 years old. This year Lily will be a rat in the Battle Scene of The Nutcracker, however, she has performed for two years as a Gingerbread Cookie. “I think dancing in The Nutcracker is really fun,” Lily said. “I love going to rehearsals, and I am really excited to be the first rat on stage.” “My favorite character is Clara,” added Lily. “I work really hard at pointing my feet in ballet class, so I can be Clara one day.” Sheryl Rowland was pleased to announce the mother-daughter, second-generation family at Kingwood Dance Theatre this year. “Kelly played many, many roles in The Nutcracker and is an awesome lady. And her little darling daughter is a mouse this year. Plus, Kelly teaches at the studio and directs,” Rowland said. Kelly Agnew said during her daughter’s very first year as a Gingerbread Cookie, Lily got to blow kisses to the audience at the end, which is the same role Kelly’s younger sister, Katy, (Lily’s aunt) danced many years ago. Agnew is very familiar with the many dance roles in The Nutcracker, having begun studying ballet with Rowland at age 6, and now as a ballet teacher. “We had just moved to Kingwood, and my parents took me to the Rowland School of Ballet -- Kingwood Dance Theatre (KDT) didn’t exist, yet,” said Agnew. “I danced with Sheryl through the middle of fourth grade and then we moved to Illinois where I studied with the St. Louis Ballet. While I was gone, Sheryl founded Kingwood Dance Theatre with John Adamson. My family moved back to Kingwood the summer before my eighth-grade year. Then I danced with KDT for the next five years until I graduated from high school. I also performed as a guest artist with KDT for the first four years I taught for Sheryl.” Agnew has played several different roles in the The Nutcracker Ballet: Harlequin Doll, Mirliton, Snowflake, Waltz of the Flowers, Arabian, Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy. “Now I regularly perform character roles as Clara’s mother and Mother Ginger,” Agnew added. “But I still have nightmares that I have to fill in at the last minute and I can’t find my pointe shoes!” she added. Agnew started teaching for Rowland Ballard School of Ballet in 1997, when she graduated from the University of Oklahoma. “I teach at KDT weekly, and I also direct the junior company with Trish King. It’s called Kingwood Youth Ballet,” said Agnew. “Dancers must audition for the youth ballet, and then they spend at least three years training before they are considered for Kingwood Dance Theatre. It’s my job to get them ready for the demands of KDT. Sheryl demands a great deal of skill and discipline from her dancers, so I really try to teach them as well as Sheryl taught me.” According to Agnew, ballet shaped her childhood, and she now realizes that the opportunity to perform on stage was a rare gift that she did not appreciate at the time. “I really want the community to know what a tremendous job Sheryl Rowland has done bringing this production to the community for the past 25 years,” said Agnew. ”Now, as an adult, I see how much Sheryl really has to do to bring this to the stage, and it is just astounding. She devotes an enormous amount of time, money and effort each and every year. And it is purely for the love of her students and ballet. I am so grateful to her. Her labor of love is now my chance to share the stage with my daughter,” she said. Kingwood Dance Theatre’s full-length production, with extensive sets and costumes, has brought the story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince to life for many years. An extensive cast of dancers and performers will fill the stage with mice; soldiers; gingerbread children; waltzing flowers; Spanish, Arabian and Chinese dancers; mechanical dolls; snowflakes; the Snow Queen; and Sugar Plum Fairy. A gliding sleigh, magical trunk and falling snow will add to the enchantment and excitement of the ballet, which is set to the well- known music of Peter Tchaikovsky. Kingwood Dance Theatre’s performance schedule is Friday and Saturday evenings, Dec. 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Dec. 17 and 18 at 1:30 p.m. Reserve seating tickets are $18.00, and the theatre seating chart can be viewed at www.KingwoodDanceTheatre.com. Tickets may be purchased by telephone or at the Rowland Ballard School, 1320 Kingwood Drive, and will also be sold at the theatre box office starting an hour before curtain. Area scouts may be interested in the badge-earning program, which includes a tour backstage after the performances. For more information or to order tickets call 281-358-4616. Photo: Kelly Agnew, left, adds the finishing touch to her daughter Lily’s rat costume. Photo by Trilla Cook

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