The polichinelles follow the lead of the flower dancers under the watchful eye of Mother Ginger in the Portsmouth School of Ballet version of The Nutcracker.
In today’s Hampton Union and Exeter News-Letter…
Take a trip to The Land of Sweets
Ballet school hosts the ‘Nutcracker’
By Amy Kane
The Land of Sweets came alive with fairies, snowflakes, Christmas candy and ballerinas when more than 200 students from the Portsmouth School of Ballet made holiday magic performing in the fairytale classic “The Nutcracker” Saturday evening at the Exeter High School auditorium.
It was the 16th season for the popular local production and the first time it was held in the new auditorium, which seats 1,000. Tickets used to sell out early when the performance was held at the middle school with 600 seats, said director and ballet school owner Kristen Samson. The final performance — a 2 p.m. matinee rescheduled to Dec. 23 because of the snowstorm on Sunday — is nearly sold out.
This year’s performance featured a new snow scene backdrop and falling snow, and new costumes for Clara, the Dewdrop Fairy, angels and Russian and Chinese dancers. Local tae kwon do teacher Dan King played Mother Ginger on stilts.
The school’s tiniest dancers, as young as 2½ years old, will perform in the Sunday matinee as Baby Mice.
Besides being a beloved holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker” is perfect for a ballet school because it can be choreographed to accommodate all ages and ability levels, said Samson. “I love to see my students grow in a role — to really challenge them and see them step up,” said Samson.
Britni Lariviere, a Winnacunnet High School senior from North Hampton, danced the part of Sugarplum Fairy with grace and confidence. It was the third year the accomplished dancer has performed the role.
Britni is also a teacher at the school and the younger students look up to her, especially during Nutcracker season.
“I’m the queen of the Land of Sweets to them. I love to see their faces light up,” she said.
Backstage before the show, Alex Dorr was preparing for his first time as the Nutcracker Prince.
The high school junior from Berwick, Maine, is an experienced actor from regional productions like “Les Miserables” at Seacoast Repertory Theater. This was his first ballet; he began lessons three months ago.
“I wanted to take ballet because all dance is based off it,” he said. Next semester he will add tap dancing to his repertoire.
The role of Clara was performed Saturday by Casey Nulph, of Portsmouth, and will be performed Sunday by Shaylagh McCole, of Portsmouth.
The two are good friends and practice dance more than 20 hours each week at the studio, said Casey’s mom, Terri, who was taking photos backstage before the show.
“These girls are so nice,” she said. “I love it that they’re all friends.”
Exeter High School senior Jillian Lewis played four parts — harlequin doll, snowflake, Chinese princess and flower.
“I just love being on stage,” she said.
Jillian’s aunt Anne had flown from Chicago to the East Coast for the first time, just to see her niece perform. This is the final Nutcracker for the seniors.
It was the 12th Nutcracker for snow queen Sarah Davis, a sophomore at St. Thomas High School from North Hampton. She has played almost every role, beginning with Mother Ginger’s little clowns, the polichinelles.
This year, Sarah was a little worried about the snow scene, though she performed it flawlessly.
“I feared it a little,” she said. “The fake snow is slippery, and it gets in your hair and eyes.”
Her favorite dance was the Russian dance. The girls who performed in it plan to take it to competition this year.
Karen Donohoe, a Winnacunnet High School freshman from North Hampton, danced as a snowflake, a flower and a Russian. Her father, Barry Donohoe, played the main father in the party scene.
“They needed dads. They asked me last year,” said Barry. “It’s something I can do with my daughter, since I’m not coaching soccer anymore.”
The Portsmouth School of Ballet “Nutcracker” is known as a family affair. Director Kristen Samson has help backstage from her mother and father, Lorraine and Craig.
Kenneth Cedergren, 8, of Eliot, Maine, said he was a “party boy” in the opening scene, while his dad, Eric Cedergren, played Drosselmeyer and his 12-year-old sister Kaitlyn was “a party girl and a rat.”
Kenneth has been dancing for four years with his good friends A.J. Sargent, 9, and Indigo Beebe-Jenny, 9, both of Portsmouth. A.J. was a party boy and Indigo played Clara’s naughty little brother Fritz.
The boys plan on sticking with ballet and “The Nutcracker.”
“Maybe one day I’ll have to be the Nutcracker, or a party dad,” mused Indigo.
In the dressing room before the show, Shaylagh McCole and Jillian Lewis get dolled up for the party scene in Act I of The Nutcracker. They danced the part of magical life-sized dolls, a gift from the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer.
Young Portsmouth School of Ballet students wait their turn to rehearse their parts as polichinelles, an hour before the Saturday evening presentation of The Nutcracker at Exeter High School.
Clara, played by Casey Nulph, joins the Nutcracker, Alex Dorr, with Chinese Princess Jillian Lewis behind, Snow Queen Sarah Davis to the right, and members of the ballet school’s cast.
Sunday’s performance of The Nutcracker was snowed out and rescheduled for Sunday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 436-5993.
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Bonus blog photo:
Party boys Kenneth, Indigo and A.J.
The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, Shchelkunchik) Op. 71, is a fairy tale-ballet in two acts, three tableaux, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1891–92. Alexandre Dumas père’s adaptation of the story by E. T. A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky (written by Marius Petipa and commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theatres Ivan Vsevolozhsky in 1891). In Western countries, this ballet has become perhaps the most popular ballet performed, primarily around Christmas time.
In ballet a complicated story is impossible to tell… we can’t dance synonyms.
– George Balanchine