world performing his 2 1/2 -hour show of illusions during the 1970s
and '80s, said Dale Hindman, president of the board of the directors
of the Academy of Magical Arts, which makes its headquarters at The
Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Blackstone Jr. was vice president of the board of directors for
the academy from 1994 to '97. He died in 1997.
The magician's widow, Gay Blackstone, has allowed the
Burbank-based ballet company to use the illusions in this production,
"I always love to see magic incorporated with theater, and in this
case, it's combining elements of theater and dance with the art of
magic," he said. "We have some things we worked out to bring together
the magical moments of the ballet with some traditional magic
The illusions will be implemented in the party scene, in which
Herr Drosselmeyer introduces the life-size dolls to Clara and the
family's guests, said Middleton, who was trained by the magician's
"I am very honored to use this equipment. Gay has a heart of gold.
She is so professional and well trained in the magic business. And
she's excited about this too, because she is a former ballet dancer,"
Middleton had to take an oath not to reveal the secret.
"Even though I know how it works, I'm still amazed at how it
actually is done," she said.
Adding to the fun, this year's Drosselmeyer is being played by
Sterlyn Steele, a magician member of The Magic Castle. He teaches
English and drama at North Hollywood High School and is also a
playwright, theater producer and director. His daughter, Echo, is
portraying an angel in the ballet.
Dancing the role of Clara is Jacqueline Pagone. She comes to the
Media City Ballet from the Chicago City Ballet.
"She has good technique, is a strong dancer and she loves playing
this role," Middleton said.
Performing as the Nutcracker Prince is Arsen Serobian, who has
danced with the Moscow Ballet Theater.
The choreography has been a collaboration between Middleton and
her husband, Askar Kettebekov, assistant choreographer.
It's been a blending of the traditional with the modern Russian
school of ballet, she said.