Terpsichore's 'Nutcracker' Combines Tradition With New Look
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
A fresh new look has been given to the performance of one of the most enchanting signs that the holiday season is in full swing. Celebrating its 18th consecutive year of producing the popular ballet, Terpsichore, the Southern Pines dance studio, presents "The Nutcracker" at the Owens Auditorium of Sandhills Community College Saturday, Dec. 18, and Sunday, Dec. 19.
Kellye Parks, the owner of the studio, says she is following in the footsteps of other dance directors by introducing something new.
"I know that other directors have adapted 'The Nutcracker' by taking out a scene or adding a new one, and I decided to do a skater's scene," she says. "The choreography for the piece is by Jeanne Williams, one of our teachers."
Two of the five students who will appear as skaters are Megan Huff and Mary Constanza. Both have been taking lessons at Terpsichore ever since they were preschoolers. Last year they alternated in the part of Clara.
"It was challenging to learn how to do the lifts, to remember to smile all the time and always to point your toes," Megan says.
According to Mary, the best part about being in "The Nutcracker" is the adrenaline rush you get after you dance.
"It's a real feeling of accomplishment-- I did it!" she says enthusiastically.
Megan adds, "The most satisfying thing is showing your family what you can do, and that you can put on a performance and make people smile."
Another new experience for some of the students is to dance on pointe for the first time in a performance. Representing this group, who appear as Polichinelles, are Marissa Martin and Olivia Sheets.
"When we look at the older girls and see how amazing they look on pointe, you want to be able to do what they do, and you definitely work as hard as you can to do your best," says Marissa.
Olivia's older sister, Elizabeth, who is dancing the part of the Dream Clara this year, has given her good advice.
"She has helped me to improve, and I really look up to her," says Olivia.
The two, close friends for several years, started out as mice, and have been party girls, angels and soldiers in past productions. Working their way up the ladder to dance ever increasingly difficult roles is part of the training that Terpsichore offers.
"The years of dedication, their eagerness and their passion for dance are all vital for them to tackle the intricate movements and partnering skills required for the leading roles in 'The Nutcracker,'" says Parks.
Dancing these top roles in this year's production are Pinecrest seniors Mary Jessup Gooden and Samantha Oldroyd, alternating as the Arabian Princess; and Pinecrest senior Elizabeth Sheets as Dream Clara. They will be partnered by Serguei Chtyrkov.
Rebecca Wolonick, a junior at Pinecrest, will dance the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, partnered by Ben Hankinson. Understudies are Alessandra Gironda for Sugar Plum Fairy and Olivia Hale for Dream Clara.
Samantha Oldroyd and Mary Jessup Gooden have been taking dance at Terpsichore for 11 and 13 years, respectively, and have worked hard to progress through the group scenes of "The Nutcracker" to becoming soloists and understudying major parts. They have prepared themselves by watching the video performances of prior years, and Mary Jessup Gooden says she even wrote down all the movements in order to memorize them, so she could concentrate on her technique.
Elizabeth Sheets says her favorite part of the score is the music for Dream Clara, the role that she is performing this year. However, "my favorite role was the Sugar Plum Fairy, which I danced last year," says Elizabeth.
This year's Sugar Plum Fairy, Rebecca Wolonick, believes that partnering requires concentration on fundamentals and focusing on the core of your body to maintain the proper positioning.
"I have watched the other dancers do the role in past years, paying attention to their corrections, and slowly improved my own capabilities," she says.
Russian-born and trained, Serguei Chtyrkov has been a principal dancer and soloist with the Columbia City Ballet of South Carolina, and a guest artist with ballet companies throughout the Southeast. He and Ben Hankinson, a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in mathematics and dance performance, who performs as a guest artist in Southeastern cities, have both danced their roles in Terpsichore's "Nutcracker" previously.
This production is dedicated to the memory of Mary Wynne Perryman, office manager for several years, and a ballet "mom," whose daughter Melissa danced with Terpsichore for 10 years, culminating in dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy in her senior year.
"The staff of Terpsichore cherish Mary Wynne's loyalty, love and friendship," says Kellye Parks.
Performances of "The Nutcracker" are Saturday, Dec. 18, at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 2 p.m. It will also be performed for school groups twice Friday, Dec. 17.
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.
Contact Pinehurst writer Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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