by Terry Rogers
On Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2, the Milford High School auditorium stage will hold Sugar Plum Fairies, Nutcrackers and all the other characters of “The Nutcracker.” The ballet will be performed by Diamond Dance Company as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company.
“This year is really special to all of us because it’s DDC’s 20th Anniversary, Aimee String, Assistant Director of the ballet, said. “It’s been a great opportunity for us to take a step back and really acknowledge what being a part of Diamond Dance Company has meant to us personally and to our community. We’ve seen tiny little girls with big dreams develop into beautiful ballerinas, we’ve kept the art of classical ballet alive in Milford and performed for thousands of our community members. We’ve become a part of many families’ holiday traditions. It’s truly an honor to bring a little bit of magic to both our dancers and community.”
Gracie Minner will dance the part of Clara, something she has dreamed about since she saw the program as a second grade student at Lake Forest North Elementary.“Being one of leads makes you more social with the other dancers and the younger girls look up to you as a role model,” Minner said. “I made the part my own by putting my own emotions and acting skills in the role. The most challenging part of the role was during rehearsals since we don’t go in order of the show so it is challenging to remember everything and piece it together. Just dancing the part is the most rewarding but it also connects me wit the older and younger dancers. It helps us create a strong love and bond for each other.”
Natalie Stevenson will also dance the part of Clara, something she has dreamed of doing for a long time. The part is special to her because she loves to dance as well as act and Clara lets her do both. She uses her emotions to help make Clara her own but finds it challenging to dance on stage with so many people watching her. However, she finds it very rewarding to know that she met a goal and was able to dance the fabulous choreography.
“I always enjoy a challenge and thought that this would give me the opportunity to learn and grow as a dancer,” Aidan Robbins said about dancing the part of the Snow Queen. “Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of being Snow Queen because the choreography is gorgeous and the snow scene is absolutely magical. Each dancer develops a unique style as they grow and mature. I like to think that I bring my excitement and love of the scene to the stage. Being able to think about everything at once, like technique, choreography, animation and making it beautiful for the audience is very challenging. It is also challenging to give my best performance and put it all together. However, seeing all of the hard work that the entire company has put in and watching the story come to life for others to enjoy is so rewarding to me. Knowing that we are part of our community’s holiday tradition means so much.”
Emma Moorman will also play the part of the Snow Queen although she had no specific role in mind when she auditioned. Moorman feels that getting the part is a great achievement because it is one of the hardest and most challenging roles in the ballet. The part is special to her because she believes it is the most magical and fun part of the show. For Moorman, dancing the part of the Snow Queen is an honor.
“When you are given certain choreography, you cannot change the moves but you can change how you dance it and when doing this, it makes the choreography special to the dancer who is performing it,” Moorman said. “The most challenging part of being in the Nutcracker is getting through the long rehearsals but still knowing that it will all e worth it and come together in the end. The most rewarding part of being in the Nutcracker is performance. Everyone in the studio has worked so hard for this to come together and to see the final piece is such a great feeling.”
The Sugar Plum Fairy will be played by Juliana Warnock and Jillian Kerr. Warnock tried out for the part to show that she is capable of achieving the best and to make herself proud of her hard work. The part was special to her because she has wanted to play the Sugar Plum Fairy since she was little. She made the part her own by adding her own style to the choreography. With each role she dances, she puts her heart into the performance and tries to have the best performance quality. The most challenging part is executing the part the way her instructors want it. Because there are multiple parts, it is hard to remember what correction goes with what dance but when during the actual performance Warnock must incorporate all the corrections and give it 110 percent. She finds it rewarding to watch the younger dancers look up to her while she is dancing and finds it important to be a role model. She likes when younger dancers ask her questions about her part and then she sees them practicing in the back of the studio.
“When I performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy last year, I had such an amazing time on stage,” Kerr said. “It’s such a challenging role that I can’t wait to perform it this year. This is my eleventh Nutcracker performance. When I first started, I was a “baby mouse” in the battle scene and now I am the Sugar Plum Fairy. It is a part that every ballerina dreams of dancing. When I first saw the Nutcracker, I asked my parents what I had to do to be the Sugar Plum Fairy. It took lots of hard work, but I am so glad I stuck with it. I imagine that Sugar Plum is not very bubbly, but also regal. I try to keep this in mind as I rehearse. Also, I try to keep my movements very soft since I am a fairy. The most challenging part is keeping calm and doing my best on stage. Sometimes, we get nervous right before we go on stage and butterflies in our stomachs start to flutter. But usually, as soon as we step out, those butterflies disappear and we are ready to show our audience our best. The most rewarding parts is when members of the audience come up after the show and tell me that I did a good job or when little girls ask to get their picture with “the princess.” All the hard work pays off when you see how much people enjoy what you do.”
Misty Yencer, Director of the ballet, said that the choreography of the show stays the same with a few tweaks. The company has used the original choreography but done things to change formation and patterns, especially in the Snow Scene.
“Each year we try to freshen up in little ways,” Yencer said. “We don’t want to pull away from too much of Tatiana’s traditions but we do want to make sure we keep the audience coming back each year. We sometimes add new roles or add elements of change to choreography. This year, we’ve brought back some parts that had been taken out. We also have some exciting new costumes to help celebrate our 20th year.”
Bliss Soucek, Assistant Director the ballet says it is challenging to teach the choreography to a new crop of dancers each year since each group performs the show just a little bit different.
“It is a welcome challenge,” Soucek said. “We love seeing the dancers adapt to new roles each year. We have a few new costumes each year as well. This year the costumes for Mother Ginger’s brood and for the Chinese Tea are new. That is exciting for us. Last year, our costume mistress, Becky Gaffney, made all new Snow costumes which we absolutely love. We brought back Mother Ginger’s brood in the baker scene this year which is exciting.”
The show will be performed on Saturday, December 1 at 7 PM and Sunday, December 2 at 2 PM. Tickets for Premium Reserved seats are $20. Tickets for adults are $15 and for children, seniors or students $10. Tickets may be purchased at https://www.tututix.com/client/southerndelawareballet/.
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