DOVER — If taking in “The Nutcracker” is on your family’s holiday must-do list, there are a variety of choices this weekend in Dover.
The Theatre at Dover High School will host this year’s Ballet Theatre of Dover’s annual holiday tradition Friday night at 7 and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the high school on Del. 8.
Delaware Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” will take place Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St.
The classic tale tells the story of a young girl who receives a nutcracker as a gift on Christmas Eve. With the help of her Uncle Herr Drosselmeyer, she is transported from a life-size battle between mice and soldiers, through a snowy forest to the Land of the Sweets where she meets all sort of fanciful characters.
For Ballet Theatre of Dover Artistic Director Teresa Emmons, this is her 27th year of doing “The Nutcracker” with the ballet theatre.
“We started a full-length version 26 years ago. But we started a little ‘Nutcracker’ here in 1995. So technically, it will be 27 years,” she said.
A professional dancer who grew up in the Philippines and earned her postgraduate degree in dance from The Juilliard School in New York, Ms. Emmons said she never really considered “The Nutcracker” to be a “substantial story” in her early days.
“In the Philippines, we did not have a ‘Nutcracker’ tradition. But when I came here, people wanted to see ‘The Nutcracker’ every Christmas and of course New York City Ballet has done it every single year since 1954. So you get here and you become part of the culture and it becomes bigger every year,” she said.
Ms. Emmons said “The Nutcracker” may be the only exposure to ballet a person ever gets.
“It’s like a tradition. It’s like going to see a show or going to church. ‘We go to the “Nutcracker” once a year. We take the kids, get them dressed, take them to a tea or do a restaurant after that.’ And they make a big thing out of it. It’s just a cultural tradition,” she said.
While this may get audiences to see a ballet for the first time, for some, it actually ignites a passion to dance.
“The first time I saw ‘The Nutcracker,’ when I was little, I saw our studio’s ‘Nutcracker.’ And then I started dancing here and now to be in it, it’s really cool,” said Trinity August, 16, who portrays the role of the Snow Queen in the Ballet Theatre’s production.
“Seeing all of the dancers on stage looking so happy and all animated made me love to perform on stage like they did and now to be doing the roles that they’re doing, it’s really an amazing experience.”
The feeling is the same for Lauren Miles, who plays Dew Drop.
“Before I was even dancing seriously, my mom bought me a DVD of ‘The Nutcracker’ and I had a little dance experience, but I was just mesmerized by the dancers. And I was just dancing around my living room. I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ And then I told my mom and that’s why I’m here now. She’s like, ‘Let’s get you in a studio.’ So ‘The Nutcracker’ is very much a part of why my love for dance is the way it is,” she said.
In the Ballet Theatre’s version of “The Nutcracker,” the roles of Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy are portrayed by the same dancer. This year, that duty falls to 16-year-old Amanda Tedesco.
“It’s a lot of pressure just because they both are so special to people. I just feel like it’s such a big part of people’s traditions. I went to go see some kids (Monday) in elementary school. And they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Clara.’ It’s certainly a big thing for them and they all want to give me a hug and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I just feel like I’m honored.’ It’s hard to live up to that kind of majestic (presence), especially with the Sugar Plum. So it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s so much fun,” she said.
For the role of the Prince, the Ballet Theatre has brought in Gregory Tyndall, a dancer with the Island Moving Company in Rhode Island.
Mr. Tyndall, 31, of Atlanta, began his formal dance training at the age of 14. He has trained with various schools across the country including The Atlanta Ballet, The Kirov Academy in Washington, The Rock School for Dance Education, Nashville Ballet and The Cincinnati Ballet.
He said he enjoys working with younger dancers as he travels around the country to appear in different productions.
“I remember when it was passed on to me. This is such a special time, especially in an age where I feel like real human connection and mentorship is dying because of technology. And you can basically be told whatever you want to be told from the internet instead of being in a room with somebody learning, especially an art form,” he said.
“It’s different than just learning problems or learning to read. It’s learning an aesthetic, an art form, a work ethic. That kind of stuff is priceless to me and that’s what it really is all about for me.”
The 85-person cast also includes Russell Myrick. Phoenix Riehl, Kyle Lehnert, Ashley Klotz, Hailey Seale, Kylee Lehnert and Paul Janiga in his longtime role of Herr Drosselmeyer.
Along with the performances, there will be also be a Nutcracker Tea where audience members can enjoy some food and take part in activities Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon in the Dover High Food Court.
For tickets, visit here. They will also be sold at the door.
This weekend’s “Nutcracker” by the Delaware Ballet, who have been performing the classic tale since the early 1970s, will feature Morgan Miller and Mary Moller as Dew Drop, Hailey Probst and Emma Gleason as Clara, Nadia Brandes and Isabella Gibbs as the Snow Queen and Lily Gibbs and Abbie LaMotte as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
For tickets to their production at the Schwartz Center, visit here.