1946 Minnesota-born Loyce Johnson, a Carleton College graduate, moves east for dance training at New York University. She studies with ballet giant George Balanchine and modern-dance pioneer Martha Graham.

1949 She and her college sweetheart, William H. Houlton, move to Minnesota so he can attend medical school; they marry a year later.

1962 Loyce Houlton founds Contemporary Dance Playhouse, renamed Minnesota Dance Theatre in 1969.

1964 The company performs its first "Nutcracker Fantasy" at the Moppet Playhouse (which became the Children's Theatre).

1965 The "Nutcracker Fantasy" moves to Northrop Auditorium, where it is performed annually for 20 years.

1978 MDT premieres Houlton's "Carmina Burana," whose cast includes a young Lea Thompson.

1979 New York Times critic Jack Anderson names Houlton's "Nutcracker Fantasy" "one of America's 10 Best Nutcrackers."

1983 Prince premieres "Purple Rain" at First Avenue as a fundraiser for MDT, where he learned some of his dance moves.

1987 MDT attempts a merger with Pacific Northwest Ballet. It fails in less than a year and disbands.

1991 Houlton continues to produce "Nutracker," even if it means a scaled-down "skimpy version."

1992 "Nutcracker Fantasy" moves to the State Theatre.

1995 Houlton dies. A year later, daughter Lise Houlton, who danced with American Ballet Theater for eight years, is named her successor.

2011 MDT performs "Nutcracker Fantasy" during the inaugural year of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts -- selling out all of the performances.