Holiday Delight: Terpsichore Presents 'The Nutcracker'
The Nutcracker, one of the most famous ballets of all time, is bringing Christmas magic for three performances to Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College Saturday, Dec. 19, and Sunday, Dec. 20.
The classic fairy tale is being presented for the 17th year by the students of Terpsichore, a Southern Pines dance studio headed by Kellye Parks.
More than 150 students and guest artists will light up the stage in this celebration of the Yuletide season.
The party children together with Clara, the youthful recipient of a gift of a nutcracker doll, and, of course, the tiny mice portrayed by the youngest dancers, are all part of the enchanted story that is retold each year by ballet companies and schools throughout the world.
Seven student ballerinas will dance the lead roles in the local production, with four of them double cast as the Snow Queen and in the Dream Clara sequence.
Elizabeth Sheets has been chosen to dance the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, while Blair Puleo has captured the Arabian Princess part. Danielle Bradshaw is Dew Drop, in addition to Nicole Casey and Sofia Bracamonte alternating in the role of the Snow Queen.
Dancing with Elizabeth Sheets as her cavalier is Ben Hankinson, and Serguei Chtyrkov appears as the Arabian Prince with Blair Puleo in a demanding pas de deux.
Chtyrkov, in the part of the Dream Nutcracker Prince, will partner Lauren Thompson and Miranda Casey as the two alternate in the role of Dream Clara.
Russian-born and trained, Serguei Chtyrkov has been a principal dancer and soloist with the Columbia City Ballet of South Carolina, and as a guest artist with ballet companies throughout the Southeast, he has appeared in Knoxville, Macon, Spartanburg, Atlanta and Savannah.
Ben Hankinson, a graduate of the University of South Carolina earlier this year with a degree in mathematics and dance performance, also performs as a guest artist in Southeastern cities.
Both Hankinson and Chtyrkov have appeared in past "Nutcracker" productions for Terpsichore.
"The most valuable element that each of them brings to us is their lack of male ego," says Kellye Parks. "They come into the studio with their main objective to help our students be the best they can be and to make them look good. Their patience gives the girls confidence in their own abilities."
Blair Puleo, who has danced with Chtyrkov in previous Terpsichore productions, says, "Partnering is my favorite aspect of dance. In preparing, one must become a poised and competent soloist first. Partnering brings out the best in you."
Chtyrkov has observed that the young dancers with whom he has worked at Terpsichore have had the benefit of outstanding training.
"As such, what is necessary for me is to give them as much support as possible, and then they are able to give an excellent performance," he says.
A first-timer in the experience of dancing with a partner, Lauren Thompson adds her thoughts.
"Partner work is a lot different than corps or solo dancing," she says. "You not only have to focus on your own performance, but the timing and coordination with your partner is crucial. It requires so much more concentration."
The seven ballerinas all have their special memories and ideas about their experiences of performing in "The Nutcracker" from their earliest days when they were mice and then party children.
"The ballet represents the holidays with the glow of light and the opportunity to mark one's progress as one moves up through the ranks of dancers to become a soloist," says Danielle Bradshaw.
Sofia Bracamonte agrees. "The thrill of having different roles every year has kept me motivated, and also watching the 'older' girls always inspired me to reach their levels," she says.
Hard work, concentration and determination to be the very best they can be are the hallmarks of Kellye Parks' students.
For instance, Nicole Moser says, "I especially like the part of the Snow Queen, and it has become my favorite, because it has enabled me to grow as a dancer."
Miranda Casey is pleased to have been cast as one of the Dream Claras.
"Working really hard this year and getting cast as one of the Dream Claras brought me much satisfaction," she says.
Remarking on the difference 12 months makes, Ben Hankinson recalls that last year Elizabeth Sheets was an understudy for the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and also danced the part in the school production.
"This is the first time that I have come back to dance with the same girl in the same part," he says. "It has been good to see her overall improvement and her strength in executing the turns, and she has gained a lot more confidence."
The student who is understudying the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in this production is Rebecca Wolonick. She will be onstage in the Waltz of the Flowers, in the Snow scene, and also is a lead performer in the Dance of the Mirlitons.
As a matter of fact, in addition, two of her brothers and her father will be on stage in the production, and her mother will be helping out backstage. You could say "The Nutcracker" is a real Wolonick family affair this year.
Suzanne Wolonick is thrilled to have four members of her family all on the same stage in the same production. Rebecca and her brothers, Josh and Jason, have appeared in past "Nutcracker" ballets. And for an extra holiday treat, husband Richard will join the three siblings on stage to dance in public after a 30-year hiatus.
Richard Wolonick, a family practice physician, is Godfather Drosselmeyer. In his younger days, Wolonick was a member of the performing troupe of Ukrainian Dancers of Miami. However, Drosselmeyer is his first venture into the world of ballet.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Wolonick has appeared as Fritz, the Nutcracker, and this year will assume the role of the Mouse King. A youthful veteran of many community theater performances, and well remembered for his role as the title character in "Oliver!", he is presently a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he has been involved in several shows on campus.
Jason, a junior at Pinecrest High School, this year has been cast as Fritz and the Nutcracker Prince in the first act. Although he has taken some dance classes at Terpsichore, his main focus is on the trumpet, and he plays with the Pinecrest Marching, Wind Ensemble, Concert and Jazz Bands, the Greensboro Youth Symphony, and the Moore County Concert Band.
The spirit that motivated the five members of the Wolonick family to be so closely identified with "The Nutcracker" is one shared by all the members of the cast and crew of this wonderful holiday tradition.
Blair Puleo puts her feelings into these words.
"Whether it is sewing new gold accessories on my Arabian Princess costume, helping the younger dancers tie their ribbons, or simply just hearing the music, 'The Nutcracker' never fails to bring happiness and excitement to the holiday season," she says.
Miranda Casey concurs, adding, "I love Christmas and to me, it just wouldn't feel right without 'The Nutcracker.'"
Performances for the 17th annual presentation of this holiday tradition are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, at Owens Auditorium on the campus of Sandhills Community College.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children, students and senior citizens. They may be purchased at the door, or by calling (910) 695-1116.
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