Performing their annual Nutcracker Ballet at Seaford High School on December 13, Delaware Dance Alliance (DDA) continued their holiday tradition as they portrayed the famous story of a small girl who experiences an adventure in a dream-like world at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve. Dancers from First State Dance Academy in Milford brought to life toys, ornaments and animals as the girl attempted to rescue her nutcracker that was given to her as a Christmas present.
“The show went really well. A lot of people pulled through to get through some unexpected challenges which made it even more special,” commented Director Michele Xiques. “We had new costumes, props, scenery and parts added to our show this year. My favorite part of the entire experience was to see the final product on stage and to see the pride and accomplishments of my dancers and everyone involved.”
Several young men from First State Dance Academy, ranging in age from12 to 21, were featured in the DDA performance. Xiques says she sees a resurgence of male dancers in ballet and continues to encourage boys of all ages in the community to get involved in dance. She states that national television shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have played a large role in breaking down gender barriers in ballet.
Owen Lawson, 14 years old, performed the part of Columbine Doll and Snow King during Saturday’s performance. Dancing for over 10 years, Lawson has received many accolades including a full scholarship to study year round with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. This year, he competed at the New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA) competition in Baltimore, Maryland, where his solo performance earned him High Gold, the Triple Threat Award and acceptance to their Summer Dance Intensive in New York City. FSDA has allowed Lawson to fully understand how hard work and a constant drive towards a goal pays off.
“[Dance] is different than sports. There is not a single season, it lasts all all year long,” said Lawson. “The best part is seeing all of your hard work pay off during a performance.”
Austin Gardner, 21 years old, has been dancing with FSDA for over 10 years. Performing the General in the battle scene in the Nutcracker Ballet, Gardner has also performed in the First State Dance Academy performance of Pirates of the Caribbean. He states that he started to pursue ballet out of curiosity. “It was really intriguing to see the dancers move their bodies in certain ways,” said Gardner. A black belt in martial arts, he states that much of that movement is similar to ballet. He enjoys being a part of FSDA because of the diversity he sees in his fellow dancers. “We have so many different styles of dancers whether it’s Hip Hop, Modern or Classical Ballet.”
Tyler Wright, 12 years old, has been dancing for five and a half years and has performed in both the Jazz Nutcraker and Nutcracker Ballet by Diamond Dance Company. Admitting that his sister was the one to “drag him into the dance studio”, Wright says that he now really enjoys the experiences he shares with his sister and other dancers. “I did not want to go at first but now it is so much fun,” said Wright. “Dance can take you a lot of places and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me.”
Dustin Wilkins, 21 years old, has been dancing for nine years and has performed in the Jazz Nutcracker, Don Quixote and Pippi Longstocking. His sister also had a hand in getting him involved in dance as Wilkins started to have fun learning that dance is much more than pirouettes. “It is fun doing the tricks, throwing and catching the girls,” he said. “I like to push myself to see how good I can be.”
Director Michele Xiques, who has been recognized by the Delaware Division of the Arts this year as she received the Emerging Fellowship Award, states that involving male dancers is very important for the art of dance and also the young men themselves. “Professional athletes are starting to see the importance of studying dance,” said Xiques. “It can not only help young men to learn balance, strength and agility but also trust, commitment and discipline.”