The Northwest Florida Ballet (NFB) will present the 39th annual production of the classic holiday fairytale "The Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 18. Performances will be held at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center and will feature live music by the Northwest Florida Ballet Symphony Orchestra.

NFB's production of "The Nutcracker" includes a cast of more than 140 performers including over 100 local children and international guest artists.

This season the role of Clara will be performed by sisters Ava Elpedes and Stella Elpedes. The Elpedes sisters are identical twins and have been students at the NFB Académie for five years. They are also members of the company's trainee program. Splitting the role of Clara is a first for NFB as each dancer will appear in separate performances of the production. They will both dance with Jordan Blackwell, who will perform as the high-spirited Fritz.

Celebrated international guest artists Adiarys Almeida will dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy and Taras Domitro will be her Prince Cavalier.

Almeida was a former Cincinnati Ballet and Corella Ballet principal dancer and first soloist with Boston Ballet. Her professional training includes The Vocational Arts School "Alfonso Perez Isaac" in Matanzas, Cuba; and The National Ballet School in Havana, Cuba. She was also the first Cuban female dancer to be a finalist at the USA International Ballet Competition in 2006.

Domitro was a former principal dancer with National Ballet of Cuba and San Francisco Ballet. He trained at Alejo Carpentier School and the National Ballet School in Havana. At age 20 he became a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba and started to build an incredible career sharing the stage with some amazing renowned dancers such as Italian Prima Ballerina Carla Fracci. Later he continued acquiring a large and versatile repertoire at San Francisco Ballet.

Courtney Shealy, a former NFB dancer now with American Ballet Theater, reprises her roles as the Snow Queen and the Dew Drop Fairy. She will dance with David Ward, who will be performing in the role of the Snow King. Ward is a former leading dancer with BalletMet where he spent seven years. He also trained at the English National Ballet School and spent five years dancing with Northern Ballet in Leeds, England. Ward's career highlights include touring across mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Thailand, as well as dancing for Prince Edward.

NFB dancers Camille Loftis and Savannah Crabtree will perform the roles of the Snow Princesses and principal artist Darren McIntyre will perform the role of Clara's Father in the Party Scene and in the Arabian pas de trois with NFB dancers Alex Trum and Tommy Tona. Principal artist and current member of Ailey 2, Daniel White will dance the role of the spectacular high-flying Lead Russian Dancer.

NFB dancer Wyatt Mier will perform the roles of Harlequin Doll and The Nutcracker Prince with Luciana Ato dancing the role of Columbine Doll and Lead Spanish. NFB's Artistic Director/CEO Todd Eric Allen will dance the role of Drosselmeyer and NFB School Director Shari Allen will be the vivacious Mouse Queen.

"It's hard to believe that this will be our 39th production of 'The Nutcracker,'" Allen said. "We are incredibly grateful that each year families in our community kick-off their holiday season with our production of this enchanting classic. I truly believe that the addition of live musical accompaniment by the NFB Symphony Orchestra makes our performances truly unique and adds an element of excitement that is unparalleled,"

The NFB Symphony Orchestra, led by David Ott, continues to be comprised of musicians from the Southeast and abroad. In his third year as the NFB music director, Ott has been cited among America's most-performed composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in music as well as Grammys, he has a large portfolio of compositions in every genre of music, from large-scale orchestra works to short overtures. Ott's works have been performed or recorded by some of the most distinguished American and European orchestras.

In addition to its three public performances, NFB will also present two performances for area school children and special needs groups. These performances are part of NFB's Education and Outreach services and will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 16 and 17.

Box office priced tickets for "The Nutcracker" are $38 for adults and $18 for children 12 and under. NFB's 2018-2019 season is presented by the St. Joe Community Foundation. Season signature co-sponsors for "The Nutcracker" include: VIE Magazine, Cox Media and ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals. NFB is sponsored in part by the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Tickets are on sale now through the Mattie Kelly Box Office website or via www.NFBallet.org.