By MIKE CHAIKEN
“The Nutcracker” has delighted audiences young and old for well over a century.
And for young dancers, the holiday themed ballet is a kind of rite of passage as they move up the ranks of roles each year they dance. One of the most coveted role is that of Clara, the young girl whose dreams on Christmas eve are the basis for many of the dance sequences in the second half.
There are a myriad of performances of “The Nutcracker” in Connecticut this Christmas season. There are professional productions and there are productions mounted by area dance schools.
Ballet Theatre Company of West Hartford will be staging a production of “The Nutcracker” at The University of St. Joseph. Among the dancers will be Plantsville’s Anna Erickson, 9, and her sister Emma, 6, and Berlin High School student Margot Paul.
As a young girl, Anna said, “I like that there is a party scene because it feels like you are at the party. I like that Clara is nice to her friends and a great dancer.”
And Emma said, “I like that the story has a lot of different dances. I like that Clara dances pretty.”
Margot, who has a number of “Nutcrackers” to her credit said that as a young girl, “I liked how it not only is a festive well-known story but allows the audience and even dancers to feel as life they are living the actual ‘Nutcracker’ ballet from the snow scene and party scene to the Russian and flowers. It’s magical.”
As a dancer, Emma said of “The Nutcracker” dance sequences, “I like the different costumes.”
“I like that there are different cultures in different dances,” said Anna.”
“Each year I’m given a role that is challenging and pushes me to become a better dancer,” said Margot of the different role opportunities in “The Nutcracker.” “I love playing a role where I can forget my everyday life and fully invest in the character and just have fun with it.”
“I really love the Arabian dancers,” said Margot when asked what her favorite dance sequence was. “As much as I love ballet, I love contemporary even more and even though ‘The Nutcracker’ is primarily a ballet, the Arabian scene shows contemporary and the ballet strength that it is demanding.”
“My favorite dance is ‘Snowflakes’ because the music is pretty and it is a graceful dance right after the big battle,” said Anna.
Emma agreed with her sister. “I like the snowflakes and their costumes.”
“The Nutcracker” is not about Christmas per se, although it takes place on Christmas eve. But for many, all the same, it sets a holiday mood for the audience.
“It starts with a holiday party with everyone getting presents,” said Anna. “I always know Christmas is coming quick after I perform in ‘The Nutcracker.’”
Margot said, “The party scene and snow scene remind me most of the holiday but what really gets me in the holiday mood is when we move into the theater and are taking the first warm up class and the director will play Christmas and holiday music and we all dance around at the end of class. Nothing gets me more into the holiday spirit then Nutcracker does.
And Emma said “The Nutcracker” puts her in a holiday mood, “knowing that Christmas is always right after.”
As for why audiences should come out to see the Ballet Theater Company production this weekend, Anna said, “Professionals join us on stage and it has real military moves in our battle.”
“BTC’s ‘Nutcracker’ is truly one of a kind and I am truly privileged to be at part of it. The ages range from 3-year-old crown carriers to professional dancers from New York City,” said Margot. “Also our ‘Nutcracker’ has a personal special twist that involves the Nutcracker Prince who is going off to the military and falls in love with Clara. During the show, we bring on a true Marine to hand off the sword to the prince. It truly gives me chills every time I watch it. All of our dancers are so loving and committed to the show, it’s a blessing to be a part of their dance family. People should come to our ‘Nutcracker’ because it’s an amazing show for all ages, boys and girls. It’s a classic but not the everyday ‘Nutcracker.’”
And most importantly for Emma, she said, “They should come to see me dance in my first ‘Nutcracker.’”
Ballet Theatre Company will perform “The Nutcracker” from Dec. 17 through the 20 at the Hoffman Auditorium on the campus of the University of Saint Joseph, 1678 Asylum Ave., West Hartford.
For more information and tickets, call (860)570-0440 or visit dancebtc.org.
By MIKE CHAIKEN