By Terry Rogers
On December 9 and 10, Diamond Dance Company and Tatiana Akinfieva Dance Academy (TADA) will present the 19th Annual “The Nutcracker” ballet at Milford High School. The ballet was the first full length ballet performed by the dance company and it was choreographed by Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, the company’s founder and the namesake of the dance academy.
“We continue to use my grandmother’s choreography,” Misty Yencer said. “We are just setting the ballet. However, we do take our artistic freedom to make choreographic changes based on the needs of the dancers as well as their technical ability. Over the many, many years my grandmother directed The Nutcracker production, she even made some changes here and there along the way with choreography, as well as roles and parts in the show.” Ms. Yencer said that as the dancers grow stronger, their technique improves making it possible to make the choreography more difficult and going back to the original moves her grandmother put together many years ago.
Every year directing the ballet has become more and more exciting for Ms. Yencer since she sees how the dancers have changed and excelled over the years. The most rewarding parts for her is standing back and seeing how much the dancers are getting out of the performance.
“The passion and dedication they have is so inspiring,” Ms. Yencer said. “Some of them have been with the company since they were four, five and six years old. Seeing them years later still involved and enjoying every moment is just so awesome, you can’t help but feel proud. “ Since The Nutcracker is performed every year, they want to make it exciting for the audience members. Each year they tweak the performance a little, whether it is choreography, sets and scenery or new costumes. That adds an element of surprise to the production, especially for those who return year after year to see the ballet.
Jillian Kerr will star this year as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Ms. Kerr, who is 14, says that she has always wanted to dance the role, and the part is one that every little girl dreams of when they begin dancing.. “The Sugar Plum Fairy appeals to me because she is regal, yet soft,” Ms. Kerr said. “I can’t wait to perform this role this year because it is one I have been looking forward to ever since I started in DDC’s Nutcracker when I was six. I think The Nutcracker has become such a timeless classic because it has the ability to appeal to audiences of all ages. The magic of the story and beautiful set designs can bring everyone in the family together for a captivating show that will leave them wanting more.”
Aimee String, co-choreographer on the show, says that the biggest challenge to doing The Nutcracker each year is to keep it fresh for the audience. Often, it is something subtle like changes to the set, but this year audiences are in for an additional treat “This year, audience members are in for a big treat,” Ms. String said. “We have brand new Flower and Snow costumes designed by local costume designer, Becky Gaffney. The audience is going to be blown away. They are just exquisite and bring new life to those integral scenes.”
One of the challenges the dancers face is bringing their characters to life without using words. Juliana Warnock, who will dance the role of the Dew Drop Fairy and the Snow Queen, says that expressing feelings and thoughts through dance is what makes the ballet so special. “I am expressing my feelings through dance by using my body as an instrument to make dancing come alive,” said Ms. Warnock, who is 14. “I also use facial expressions and connect myself to the music. What really helps me the most to get into the character is repeating the way I move my body throughout the dance to make it fluent.”
Emma Moorman, 14, who will play both the Snow Queen and Dew Drop Ferry, says that her favorite aspect is that she is stretching her abilities by having a partnering role. Both roles are very elegant with aspects that are both similar and different. Ms. Moorman says that The Nutcracker is such a beautiful ballet and it tells a fantastic story.
Aidan Robbins, 13, will play the Lead Arabian, a role that is more serious and mysterious. The character does not smile and must be danced with quiet confidence to bring out the fierceness of the character. The hardest part for her is technique as it is the first time she is partnering.
“I want to not only do well with my partner, but express my characters feelings,” Ms. Robbins said. “It is a mysterious dance and it has been challenging to master the look that fits the character. I’m used to making sure I am smiling a lot, but with this role I have to look more serious and even a bit mystical. There is much to think about but practice makes perfect.”
Olivia Caraballo, 12, who plays Clara, said that she loves that Clara gets to travel to amazing places and meet people, something she wants to do someday. Olivia has been dancing for seven years, something she decided she wanted to do after seeing Swan Lake when she was three. Alayna DeBaca, 13, who also plays Clara said that she also loves the amazing adventure Clara gets to go on.“The hardest part about playing Clara is that she expresses a lot of different emotions throughout the show,” Ms. Caraballo said. “Expressing these emotions myself becomes difficult sometimes.”
Diamond Dance Company will perform two shows for local school students on December 8th. Teachers or daycare centers who are interested in bringing a class should contact the studio via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Public shows are held Saturday, December 9 at 7 PM and on Sunday December 10 at 2 PM. Tickets are available at https://www.tututix.com/client/southerndelawareballet/.
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