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It's a hard-knock life

Tacoma City Ballet performs the classic family favorite Annie

Little Orphan Annie the Ballet will perform March 20 in Tacoma. Photo courtesy Tacoma City Ballet

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Everyone knows the story of Annie: a cheerful, young orphan girl charms her way into the heart of a cantankerous rich man during the Depression with her unyielding sense of optimism and spunk. Catchy songs are sung, tender moments are witnessed, and happy endings are plentiful. Now, the family favorite play has been transformed into a one-hour ballet performance at the Tacoma City Ballet.

Performances are Saturday, March 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. at the Merlino Art Center on 6th Avenue in Tacoma.

Originally established in 1955 as The Jan Collum School of Classical Ballet, the Tacoma City Ballet is currently in its 60th anniversary season. With a mission that includes the preservation of classic technique and tradition in an environment that fosters creativity and artistic development, the TCB strives to ensure that the study of classic ballet is financially accessible for any child. The organization also makes it a priority to remain innovators within the industry, and seeks to put on family-oriented shows that are affordable and original.      

Preparations for Annie began last summer, with rehearsals held every Saturday since. The production was staged by Kate Monthly, who also choreographed the show with Joel Myers. The show has a cast of 39 people, and 12-year-old Jackie Caldwell will spearhead the production as the precocious and gregarious orphan Annie.

"For her age, she has very good technique and is a fine little actress," said Miss Erin Ceragioli of Caldwell.

Ceragioli has been the artistic director of the TCB for 25 years and is a former dancer and teacher of the beautiful and graceful dance.

"I was a professional dancer before arriving in Tacoma to teach ballet at the request of Miss Jan Collum, who founded the ballet school and company," she recalled of her former career.

Ceragioli has staged many ballets, including Cinderella, Les Sylphides, Pas de Quatre, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty and has choreographed many original pieces as well.

So far for the 2015-2016 season, TCB has put on performances of The Nutcracker and The Tale of The Hard Nut (a prequel to The Nutcracker with original choreography by Ceragioli) in December. In May, it will delight audiences with the Storybook Ballet Fairytale Tea Party in the Jan Collum Ballroom Theater and Carmina Burana at the Pantages Theater. Carmina Burana will also feature the Tacoma Symphony Chorus, the Vivace! Treble Choir and the Tacoma City Ballet Orchestra in a collaboration attendees are sure to enjoy.

Although some of the shows put on by the Tacoma City Ballet are annual, Annie will not be.

"The storyline of Annie will be told through dance," Ceragioli said of the performance, making it a truly rare experience that is meant to be enjoyed with the whole family in a fresh and new approach.

LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE THE BALLET, Saturday March 19, 7 p.m., Sunday, March 20, 3 p.m., $10, The Merlino Art Center, 508 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4219,

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