Anna O’Renick believes there is something magical about “The Nutcracker,” which is why the ballet is so popular every holiday season.

Anna O’Renick believes there is something magical about “The Nutcracker,” which is why the ballet is so popular every holiday season.

“You go on a journey with Clara, and there is magic in that,” said the freshman at William Chrisman, who is playing the Snow Queen in the Ballet Conservatory of Independence’s production of “The Nutcracker.” “I can be graceful when I am on stage because the music is graceful. I am allowed to be a princess, just as every little girl is allowed to be a princess when they are watching it. That’s what makes it special.”

Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” tells the story of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince as they take a journey through the Kingdom of Sweets. It is a popular ballet that is among the highlights of the holiday season.

What makes the Ballet Conservatory’s production unique from others in the metropolitan area is that the cast is mainly children and teenagers. Performers are from Independence, Blue Springs, Raytown, Liberty and Kansas City as well as other communities.

The ballet is at 10 a.m. and noon today and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre, 1600 S. Withers Road. Admission is $5 for the Friday performances, although most of the tickets have already been sold for the 10 a.m. performance. Tickets are $10 and $15 in advance or $12 and $17 at the door for the Saturday performances.

But what makes this performance of “The Nutcracker” even more special is that it will be the last for Ulla Ames, who has directed the production in Independence for the last 25 years.

“Thousands of kids have been through here (the school) since we opened. I am now getting second generation dancers,” she said. “I have been trying to retire for several years now. I just feel like it is time to let someone else have some input.”

Ames developed the idea for “The Nutcracker” while she was still living in Utah. Owning a school in Salt Lake City, she would send her students to audition for the Utah Civic Ballet’s production each year. However, only a few students would be chosen.

Seeing the potential in the rest of her students, Ames decided to create a production of “The Nutcracker” that featured a cast of mainly children. A hands-on teacher, she has designed and created sets and costumes as well as choreographed the ballet throughout her career. Some of the original costumes are still being worn.

“'The Nutcracker' will continue,” she said of the holiday tradition. “I am hoping some of my ballet students who have moved on will join together to put on the show. It just will not be happening under my direction.”

Amelia Ellsworth, who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, said performing in the last production of “The Nutcracker” under Ames’ direction is emotional.

“She has become so much more to me over the years than just a teacher. She is an amazing person and loves her students so much,” she said. “She is a mentor to most everyone here, and she will be missed.”

For more information or to order tickets, visit the studio’s website at