Holiday tradition

Some families make it their holiday tradition to bake cookies together. Others have eggnog and sing carols while decorating the tree. But the Harris family of Burbank prefers dancing in "The Nutcracker" ballet with the Red Chair Production Company.

Michele and Dan Harris and their daughters, Haylee,13, and Lena, 10, have been participating in the annual holiday classic since the company began performing the show five years ago. This year, Mother and Father will be dignitaries in the party scene, and daughter Haylee will be portraying the maid. Daughter Lena has two roles in the ballet — a Russian candy cane in the Land of the Sweets and a soldier in the fight scene between the Nutcracker and the Mouse Queen.

"For us, it's creating a family tradition and memories being in involved in all the aspects of the show," Michele Harris said.

Along with performing in the ballet, Michele Harris has made costumes for the production, including sewing the bloomers for lead character Clara's 10 friends and creating the butler costume and one of the little boy's costumes. Four year ago she made the dress she wears in the party scene. She's also put together her husband's costume.

"I made up my own character. I call myself the Ambassador of Argentina," Dan Harris said, adding that he grows out a handle-bar moustache and mutton-chop sideburns, which he darkens with black mascara.

He had rented a tuxedo the first few years, but that got expensive, so his wife has put together a regal-looking ensemble with odds and ends picked up at secondhand stores in Burbank, like It's a Wrap, down the street from the ballet school on Magnolia Boulevard.

It's a vintage tuxedo with curtain coat and tails and white vest, and Michele Harris made a red sash and gold ascot.

"It's been a lot of fun," Dan Harris said. "Each year we hope we can be in it. The biggest excitement for me is to dance with both the girls, which I've done three out of the four years, and this year I get to dance with my wife."

He also believes performing in the show is a healthy family activity.

"Any professional athlete will tell you ballet is great conditioning for any sport," he said. "And it's fun to play dress-up. Halloween doesn't stop after the 31st — we've got one more chance to dress up."

Haylee had played the role of Clara's friend for two years, and then she decided to work back stage.

"Ballet is a good way to exercise, rather than running," she said.

But for Lena, it's all about performing.

"I just like to dance and wear the costumes," she said, while jumping up and down. "I like to be on stage so my friends can see how good I am at it. I'm one of the Russian candy canes, and you have to jump a lot."

"It's super fast!" her mom added.

The Harris family is one of many families that take part in the show every year, said Anna Smith, director of marketing.

"They are a huge asset," Smith said. "Michele had done a lot of work with the costumes…. This year she's embellished the Snow Queen's tutu with sparkles and extra lace. She sees what's needed and dives right in."

Over the years the costumes have evolved and now are really professional-looking, Smith added.

"That's great for the kids because it gives them a lot of confidence to go on stage and makes them feel special," she said.



What: Red Chair Children's Production Company's presentation of "The Nutcracker" ballet

When: 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

Tickets: $18 to $24

Contact: or call (818) 243-ALEX or Red Chair (818) 640-4645

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