Celebrated dancers Morgan McEwen, Scott Weber, Rosemary Sabovick-Bleich, Joseph Fritz, Bradley Shelver, Mario Espinoza and Shanna Irwin, from prestigious companies such as Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, NJ Ballet and Ballet Hispanico, join the Ensemble for three performances at Wilkins Theatre at Kean University, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, NJ on Saturday, December 13 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm, and Sunday, December 14 at 2:00pm.
New Jersey Stage spoke with Nancy Turano about the production.
What is it about The Nutcracker that makes it such a holiday tradition for so many people?
What makes "The Nutcracker" one of the most loved ballets are its universal themes, such as the importance of family and the power of the imagination, as well as Tchaikovsky's timeless music. It is the story through the eyes of a young girl, Clara, who who sees the wonder in the world and all things. It begins as a holiday party with family and friends. Later, in her dream, Clara faces a world that is filled with enchanted moments, from the perils of the battle between the Mice and Soldiers, to time travel with the ethereal Sugar Plum Fairy, who takes her around the world in Act 2 to meet many different cultures. Through it all, Clara stays curious and hopeful. In a way, the ballet tells the story of all our lives. It begins simply, with important connections with family and friends, and then develops as we do in our own life experiences through encounters with the diverse and fascinating world around us. It is a classic holiday ballet with a story of celebration and hope that is beloved by and and accessible to all ages.
Is it a challenge to keep the story and dancing fresh when it's performed each year?
This is NJDTE's 45th year of performing this production, and each year it changes a bit based on the unique ability of the talented young dancers in the Ensemble and the particular strengths of our professional guest artists. We often expand and contract sections of the ballet as needed to accommodate the number of dancers we have in the various levels of the Ensemble. It is truly an ever-evolving form of live art. In the 45 years since the Ensemble's founding, we have added new set pieces and backdrops, and several new roles and costumes have been created to complement the archival costumes and original choreography from years past. The color palette is now more vibrant and textured, based on the wider variety of materials available now, compared to the options available in 1969, when the first production was staged. The rich history of NJDTE inspires the dancers as well. When an Ensemble dancer puts on a Marzipan tutu that was crafted in the 1960s, and sees the names of all the dancers who have worn it before her stitched into the bodice, that costume and that role takes on a palpable, almost sacred significance for that dancer. This deep appreciation of the past, together with the excitement of each year's new challenges, allows our dancers to grow and gives them the opportunity to honor and recognize the significance of their place in Ensemble history.
NJDTE presents a professional-level full-length production of The Nutcracker at the Wilkins Theatre at Kean University on Dec 13 & 14. Our production is unique in that it fully features 65 talented young dancers ages 7-18 from all across New Jersey, along with 14 professional guest artists from renowned professional companies including Complexions Contemporary Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, among others. The Ensemble's dancers perform the most advanced roles in the production, including Snowflakes, Marzipan, Waltz of the Flowers and Dew Drop. We present a fully professional production with expert lighting and sound; beautiful new sets, backdrops and costumes; and exciting special effects.
To reach out to the community, we also offer a behind-the scenes presentation and backstage tour for New Jersey Girl Scout troops. NJDTE dancers who are Girl Scouts participate in a Q&A session, and offer their thoughts about the artistic experience of performing.
NJDTE dancers receive the highest caliber training in ballet, modern and contemporary dance in a pre-professional curriculum that prepares them for professional dance careers. So, aspiring young dancers in our audience are able to see all they can achieve with a high level of dedication and discipline.
Finally, what do you personally like best about The Nutcracker?
The Nutcracker is a timeless story that relates to all our lives. It refreshes us, reminds us of our youthful dreams, and celebrates family and tradition.
What I love most is to see young dancers achieve their professional dreams. Each year, we audition many talented dancers from NJ with bright eyes and great aspirations for a professional life in dance. NJDTE mentors and guides its dancers to prepare them to study at the best college programs and companies in the world. The Nutcracker is an important part of every Ensemble dancer's story and journey. Like the character of Clara, these dancers are all dreamers and hopeful, curious beings. They persevere for months through many physical and mental challenges in the rehearsal period to develop into strong and accurate artists, even though they are so young. Like Clara when she encounters the Mice and all the different cultures in Act 2, the dancers learn to focus, persevere and expand their horizons as they move towards their very bright futures.