Traditional Holiday Delight
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
"The Nutcracker," one of the most famous ballets of all time, is bringing its own brand of Christmas magic to Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College for three performances Dec. 17-18.
In what has become a local tradition, the classic fairy tale has been performed by Terpsichore, a Southern Pines dance studio headed by Kellye Parks, each December for the past 19 years.
More than 100 students and guest artists will once again be on stage in this charming celebration of the Yuletide season.
Clara, the youthful recipient of a gift of a nutcracker doll, the party children 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.
One of the guest artists this year is a new addition to the cast of "The Nutcracker."
Joining Russian-born and trained Serguei Chtyrkov, who has expertly partnered Terpsichore students in the past, is Patrick Faircloth, a Georgia native. Faircloth, who says his career as a serious dancer didn't really start until he was 19, has nevertheless been in several productions of "The Nutcracker" previously in his hometown of Macon.
Faircloth's formal training as a dancer began in Macon, and later he was accepted by the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, winning a full scholarship for his third year.
He began his career as a guest artist with the LaFayette Ballet Theatre in LaGrange, Ga., and continued to do guest appearances with the Covington Regional Ballet, the International City School of Ballet and Dance Arts Studio. He currently is under contract to the Fleetwood Dance Theatre. His interest is in classical ballet, not modern.
He says with a smile, "I prefer to appear in white tights, partnering a dancer in a tutu."
An athlete during his high school years, Faircloth observes that he transferred the skills such as coordination, concentration and dexterity he learned on the baseball and football fields to his ballet studies.
"I noticed that a lot of the other male students didn't have the upper-body strength I had built up during my football training that is so necessary to do the lifts in partnering," Faircloth says.
Kellye Parks says, "The most valuable element that both men bring to us is their professionalism. Their main objective is 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."
Chtyrkov notes 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.
Rebecca Wolonick is dancing the Arabian variation in this year's production. No stranger to leading roles, she will be remembered by Terpsichore audiences for her performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy last year, and for the demanding role as Bluebird in "Sleeping Beauty" in May.
"The Arabian variation is known for the tricks and the flips, and it is new choreography that I hadn't performed before, so it presented me with quite a challenge," she says.
Olivia Hale, who is performing the role of Dream Clara, is dancing her first partnering role with Patrick Faircloth.
"The most difficult movement in our pas de deux comes at the end of the variation, when Patrick lifts me from a downward stance that requires split-second timing," she says. "It is pretty exciting."
Dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in this year's production is Alessandra Gironda. She has had previous partnering experience with Serguei Chtyrkov in preparing for roles in which she was an understudy, but this is the first time she has had the stage experience with him as a partner.
"The Sugar Plum Fairy has some of the most complicated choreography in the ballet, and I have been working very hard to master the movements, both as we partner together and in my solo role," Gironda says.
A standard procedure for preparation of the partnering roles such as the Arabian variation, the Dream Clara sequence and the Sugar Plum Fairy has been worked out by Kellye Parks.
She provides the students selected for the parts with a firm foundation of the basics by having them repeatedly study videos of past performances, memorizing every turn and lift.
They rehearse their own movements singly as well, so that they are fully prepared when the male dancers partnering them in the stage production come to Southern Pines for pre-performance daylong rehearsals.
Despite the long rehearsal schedules and the hard work involved, the three dancers in the leading roles can't imagine a year without "The Nutcracker."
Each one of them has taken part in the classic each year since they were beginning dance students - everything from being a mouse to a party girl to a soldier or performing as a Snow Princess or in the "Waltz of the Flowers."
"It is truly the highlight of the Christmas season," says Parks.
Performances of the 19th presentation of Terpsichore's "The Nutcracker" are Saturday, Dec. 17, at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m., at Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College.
Tickets are $15, and may be purchased at the door or by calling (910) 695-1116.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at mehunter1055 @hotmail.com.
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