A London-trained ballet director will present Lakeville City Ballet's rendition of the Christmas classic in the South High School theater.
Q: What do the Orpheum, Northrop Auditorium, the State Theatre and Lakeville South High School have in common?
A: "The Nutcracker."
That's right. While dancers for the Moscow and Metropolitan ballets soon will pirouette on Minneapolis stages, the Lakeville City Ballet will stage its own full-length, traditional production of the Tchaikovsky classic next weekend in the expansive theater at South High.
Directing the cast of 120 -- mostly children, some adults, with a few professionals for good measure -- is a London-trained dancer, pastry chef and painter who has performed in great ballets and musicals but says she is most at home teaching kids.
"I love being onstage, but this is far more fulfilling," said Denise Vogt, whose ideas and energy have propelled the ballet company since it spun off in 2003 from Dance Works Performing Arts Center.
Vogt, 44, is a director at Dance Works, a Lakeville studio opened in 1984 by Ann Proudfoot.
"She's very, very compassionate to her students, but she's also passionate about what she does," Proudfoot said of Vogt.
Several Dance Works students who have worked with Vogt have been admitted to summer programs with such prestigious companies as the Joffrey Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet. One former student, Elizabeth Sousek of Lakeville, went on to join the Rockettes.
Jeannie DeLay, whose 14-year-old daughter Emily has danced two summers with the American Ballet Theatre, calls Vogt amazing.
"When Emily went to New York at age 12, she knew everything she needed," DeLay said. "My daughter would not be where she is today without Denise."
It's been more than 20 years since Vogt left her native England. But you don't need to talk to her long before figuring out that England has never left her. She has her students over for high tea, surely one of the few ballet teachers in Minnesota to do so.
At 19, having studied with the English Royal Ballet and the London Studio Center, Vogt left England to join the Kiel Ballet Ensemble in Germany. There she met Rick Vogt, a dancer from St. Paul (now a lawyer); they married in 1987 and moved to the Twin Cities two years later.
Burned out by dance because of an eating disorder, Vogt worked for a while as a pastry chef. But stints at several Twin Cities dance schools confirmed her love and talent for teaching. In 1995, she became ballet director at Dance Works.
Her artistic interests don't end with dance. Vogt has been dabbling in painting for a couple of years and started art classes this fall. Painting has become her passion, but right now it's the upcoming "Nutcracker" that's occupying much of her time.
"I didn't realize how wonderful it is until people would say, 'We didn't know this was here. What a gem!' They're starting to see what we are," Vogt said.
Kevin Duchschere 612-673-4455