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NMSU dance majors, students from children's home to perform "The Nutcracker"

Children from the Emmanuel Children's Home in Juárez, under the direction of Kirsten Avelar, a dance major from New Mexico State University, will perform "The Nutcracker" ballet at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday at the INBA theater next to the Plaza de las Américas in Ciudad Juárez.

who is also the ballet director at the children's home in Colonia Lopez Mateo, has worked with about 50 students who will participate in the production. Performing along with them will be six NMSU dance majors who have volunteered for the project.

Other university dance majors have volunteered to work with the lights and sound for the production.

The performance is free, but the group is asking for donations to help support the home's ballet program and the possibility of sending students to Ballet Hispanico in New York City. Emmanuel Children's Home cares for about 100 disadvantaged children ages 3 through 17. Many of these children come from families too poor to care for them or from homes where illness prevents parents from caring for their children. One child has lived at Emmanuel for 14 years.

Avelar, who was born in Minnesota, went with a church group to help out at the home one Christmas. Later, she was a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Company, but she decided not to stay on and came to the Southwest to work with the children.

"I love dancing. I've done it as a career and I want to keep teaching it. I realized I wanted to learn the art of teaching dance and dance education," Avelar said of her decision to enroll at NMSU.

Avelar, who lives in El Paso, commutes regularly between El Paso, Juárez and NMSU. She said NMSU dancers have been amazed at the opportunity the children from the home have to study ballet and enrich their lives.

"They realize this is a real giving opportunity and they want to be role models for these children," Avelar said of the students who also are providing gifts for the children.