The little studio in the Abbey on Oak Street is buzzing with excitement as students from Wild Rivers Conservatory of Dance prepare to bring “The Nutcracker! A Modern Ballet” to the community.

The third annual presentation is scheduled for 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9 and 10, in the Azalea Middle School gym at 505 Pacific Ave. in Brookings.

The Wild Rivers Coastal Ballet was founded in 2015 by Artistic Director Sky-Marie McDonald, and this year the show features more than 40 performers.

“Every year the show gets better and better,” McDonald said. “Our core dancers work relentlessly, all year long, perfecting their dance technique. They are an incredibly disciplined group of young people.

“The group is growing, and each year we have new dancers who want to join in as well. The more established dancers take the new ones under their wing and the dance company really feels like a tight-knit family. They are excited to make something really special and beautiful that the community can be proud of.”

Korinne Luis, 13, is dancing the lead role of The Nutcracker. This will be her fifth show with the Wild Rivers Coastal Ballet.

She danced solo roles in “Beatlemania” (2016) and “The Velveteen Rabbit” (2017).

“We are so excited to be a part of The Nutcracker for the third year in a row. It is a truly magical experience,” Korinne’s mother Sarah Burd said.

Korinne hopes to dance professionally.

The lead role of Clara is danced by Meriwether McDonald-Schell, 11. This is her sixth year to dance in a Nutcracker ballet and her first year as Clara.

“It’s a dream come true to finally get to be Clara,” Meriwether said. “Every young ballerina wants a chance to be Clara, but it’s really hard because I’m dancing nonstop for over an hour on the stage, and it’s a whole lot of choreography to remember.”

Meriwether also envisions a career in the arts, possibly as an author or choreographer.

“I love telling stories, and dancing is a way to bring stories and characters to life.”

The cast also includes professional guest dancers Anastasia Meyers as the Arabian, Brittany Deptuch as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Jeremy Lawler as Drosselmeyer.

“It’s inspiring for our student dancers to get to work alongside these industry stage professionals,” McDonald said. “The networking is invaluable. And it really raises the caliber of the show to have these professionals flying in to dance here.

“It’s a treat and helps put Brookings on the map where the arts are concerned.”

Gymnasts from Freestyle Cheer and Gymnastics are joining the show this year as well.

Wild Rivers Coast Foundation for Dance President Jan Barbas said, “I got involved as soon as I learned we have ballet in Brookings. Like many, my first reaction was astonishment. When I went to my first show it was the absolute joy radiating from the performers that amazed me the most.”

Dance promotes academic excellence, and involvement in dance programs helps improve student’s competitiveness for college admission, Barbas said. The nonprofit was formed last year to enhance these opportunities for the youth, to provide them with performance opportunities and bring dance to the community.

“This is so much more than just a great after-school activity,” McDonald said. “Our beautiful dancers are on stage, but behind the scenes, an incredibly dedicated team of dance parents, the Wild Rivers Coast Foundation for Dance Board Members, and approximately 100 local businesses and patrons have contributed their time, effort and finances to make this spectacular show possible.”

Last year the foundation received a grant from the city of Brookings.

“Each year we raise the bar and are closer and closer to being the regional dance company I dream of us being,” McDonald said. “The goal, absolutely, is outreach, inclusion and excellence.

“Our biggest challenge has been not having a proper theater building that can accomodate a show of this size and caliber. We have worked to overcome that by creating a portable theater complete with velvet curtains, a dance floor and professional stage lighting and sound.”

Tickets can be purchased at Wright’s Custom Framing and Art Supplies and online at