First State Dance Academy to Present “The Nutcracker Express”


By Terry Rogers

On Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3, First State Dance Academy will present “The Nutcracker Express,” choreographed by Michele Xiques. The show combines the traditional Nutcracker ballet with the popular movie “The Polar Express.”

“Choreographing is easy and natural for me,” Ms. Xiques said. “The music “tells” me what to do right on the spot with the dancers. I’ve also invited my staff member, Kaitlyn Conboy, to choreograph a jazz and hip hop routine for this show.”

Ms. Xiques said that she always makes changes to the shows in order to keep them fresh and to showcase the talents of the individual dancers. Having her own dance company gives her the freedom to do so.

“I base the choreography of who I am working with and what the public interest may be,” Ms. Xiques said. “The Nutcracker Express adds something new and fresh on the traditional holiday ballet. This show gives the public the choice of seeing something new and popular while keeping some tradition. There are several Nutcracker ballets throughout the state being offered, so that’s why I decided to offer something a little different.”

Kyleigh Dunlap plays Clara in The Nutcracker Express. She said that dancing the role of Clara appealed to her because Clara is so kind and she dreams big.

“I am going to express her thoughts and feelings through the choreography,” Ms. Dunlap said. “Since this is a one-of-a-kind production, Michele customizes the choreography to the dancer’s strengths and abilities. Clara ties together the whole production so that is a lot of responsibility, but I love her imagination.”

Ms. Dunlap said that every young dancer dreams of playing the role of Clara someday and she thinks it is an honor to be chosen. She said that dancing the role using the new choreography has been a challenge, but she feels she can bring the character to life in a way that is different from other versions of Clara.

The Polar Express was a movie released in 2004 that tells the story of a young boy’s magical adventure to the North Pole on a train called the Polar Express. During the adventure, he learns about friendship, bravery and the spirit of Christmas. The movie is based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. The Nutcracker ballet was adapted from a book written by E.T.A. Hoffman entitled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” in which a child’s favorite Christmas toy, a nutcracker, comes to life and, after defeating the evil Mouse King, whisks the child away on an adventure. In the book, the child’s name was Marie, but in the ballet, the child is Clara. Ms. Xiques has taken elements of each story and combined them to create a unique, interesting ballet that will appeal to all ages.

Shows are at Milford High School on December 2 at 6 PM and on December 3 at 2 PM. Tickets are $10 for children and senior citizens or $15 for adults. Tickets may be purchased at First State Dance Academy or via They will also be available at the door.


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