Roosevelt’s Nutcracker tradition continues

Lianna Winterton Ames began dancing at Ulla Ames dance studio in Altamont when she was 9 years old. Her older sisters were already dancing with Ulla, who would eventually become her mother-in-law, as were many of Ames’ friends from Roosevelt. Ames said they would carpool to Altamont once or twice a week to dance.

Ulla Ames, originally from Finland, started ballet when she was a child. She was instantly hooked and discovered what would become one of her life’s passions. She would eventually train and dance with the Finnish Opera Ballet in Finland.

At 16, she moved to Canada, then moved to Utah at 21 to attend school. While attending school at the University of Utah, she met the man she would eventually marry, Allen Ames, who had grown up on a dairy farm in Altamont.

At 22, she saw the Nutcracker at the Utah Civic Center for the first time. It was directed by Wil lam Christensen, who, with his brothers Lew and Harold, brought Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet to America in 1944. Ulla studied ballet under the direction of Christensen at the University of Utah.

Fast forward a few years, when Ulla opened her studio in Altamont to teach ballet. Over time, Ulla would send her students to audition to perform in the Nutcracker, but only a few were chosen.

Seeing the potential in all her students, she talked with Christensen about her vision of the Nutcracker ballet for children. He encouraged her to follow her dream and create the ballet for children, one of the first of its kind in the country. The Nutcracker tradition in Roosevelt was born.

Ulla’s husband, Allen, didn’t know a thing about ballet when they met, but he loved Ulla so much, he has danced the role of Herr Dros- selmeier ever since their very first Nutcracker. He grew to love the beauty of ballet. Ulla eventually moved to Indepen – dence, Missouri, starting up a dance studio there.

Now, Lianne Winterton Ames, owner and director of Legacy Performing Arts Academy in Roosevelt, Ames has been producing the Nutcracker for 11 years. It consumes a lot of her time, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her love for her students is apparent as the kids stop by to chat with her after performances. They put on the annual Nutcracker performance at Union High School this weekend.

The excitement of the dancers was palpable as they lined up off stage to await their entrance onto the stage, while the dancers who exited the stage rush to change their costumes for their next part.

Her students start prac – ticing the sugarplum and snow queen partner work in June, with the rest of the cast beginning rehearsal in September.

“My performing arts pro – gram was a gift to my com – munity, who was so good to me growing up.” Ames said. “There are so many kind people here who supported me and support all the youth here. I wanted to give back to them, their grandkids and all the families who want to preserve the innocence of children.” Besides her work with her students at her Roosevelt academy, she also co-directs American Rhythm, which was established in 2002 with Twilla Mann. The group of talented singers, dancers and musicians has toured around the country and overseas.