"Nutcracker" brings Christmas magic to Northshire Ballet Center of Manchester performs holiday favorite this weekend

MANCHESTER - Marilyn Cavallari knows well that "The Nutcracker" is a perennial favorite on global Top 10 lists of great ballets. But its lofty status won't keep it away from small-town Vermont, or from young, aspiring ballet dancers and their parents.

That's because Cavallari is pouring her dedication into the upcoming production of the "The Nutcracker," to be staged this Saturday and Sunday by the Ballet Center at Manchester, where she serves as artistic director.

"The Nutcracker" is a tale that has endured since the 19th century, and is a worldwide Christmas favorite for both adults and children. The music is by Ilya Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

In the Vermont edition, "The Nutcracker" opens with a grand party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum. The guests arrive followed by a very mysterious person only to find out that it is their favorite Uncle Drosselmeyer. He arrives with a bag of gifts for all the children.

"`The Nutcracker' is magical, as first you have a party of the adults and children who receive gifts from the toy maker Herr Drosselmeyer," Cavallari said. "He brings human size dolls that come alive. The Christmas tree grows and the toys under the tree come alive. A battle scene occurs only to be followed by Angels and then Snowflakes. Then the whole second act takes place in the land of sweets followed by the Flowers."

Children of all ages, Cavallari continued, love "The Nutcracker" as a story or a ballet.

The lead of Clara will be danced by Paige Samuelson on Saturday and Kaitlynn on Sunday and her brother Fritz will be danced by Cale Tilley. At the Christmas Party Clara receives a Nutcracker doll from her uncle Herr Drosselmeyer, played by none other than Mark Tashjian, Headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy.

Afterwards, Clara returned to the living room after the party and falls asleep only to find herself in The Land of Sweets.

"In all, 50 children and parents from the southern Vermont area will be in the production," Cavallari added.

The lead dancers include the following: The Sugar Plum Fairy is Nicole Schmid, Spanish is danced by Lily Hickey, Arabian is Emily Sullivan, Tea is Sarah Tilley, Flute is Hannah Samuelson, Mother Ginger is Jeff Tilley, Russian is Julia Barclay ending with the Waltz of the Flowers.

Cavallari said that there are dancing dolls, tiny mice, and a fierce battle scene with a canon that shoots out cheese. The Nutcracker, played by J.D. Reddin, has a fierce battle with the King Mouse, portrayed by Alessia Tallini.

The Ballet Center at Manchester was founded in 1992 at the old Grange Hall in Manchester. The school offers classes in classical ballet to children, teens and sometimes adults.

Cavallari explained that her teachings "strive for technical excellence," and that the children learn to listen to direction and combinations, gaining confidence in public performance.

She emphasized that they also learn "discipline, discipline, discipline," and even benefit from some language lessons

"Many of these younger students have danced with the New York City Ballet in the children's parts in Saratoga Springs," Cavallari said. "At the Ballet Center at Manchester the terminology is all in French thus the 3 and 4 year olds, as well as the other children, learn what the French words mean."

In all, Cavallari smiled in recalling that audience members tell the Ballet Center to keep up the good work.

"The audience has often said to me afterwards that is was more fun watching a community production, because of seeing 3 and 4 year olds on stage, and their parents, who may not have experience dancing," she said.

"The Nutcracker" will be performed by the Ballet Center at Manchester performance on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7:00 p.m. at Burr and Burton Academy, Riley Center,(Snowdate is Sun., Dec, 18, at 7:00 p.m.) and on Sun,, Dec. 18, at 2:00 p.m. at Long Trail School Auditorium (Snowdate is Thu. Dec. 22 at 1:00 p.m.). Tickets are available at the Mountain Goat in Manchester, Info: 802 379-0759 or at each school's box office prior to the performance.A portion of the proceeds from this performance goes to the Irene Hunter Scholarship Endowment Fund.

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias on Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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