An annual tradition continues. The Shepherdstown School of Dance are once again presenting the Nutcracker Ballet this weekend.
Under the direction of Emily Romine and Mercedes Prohaska, the nearly100 member cast of dancers and community members have worked since October to bring the holiday classic to Shepherd University's Frank Arts Center stage.
At rehearsal Monday evening, Romine, discussed the growth of Shepherdstown School of Dance and what audience members could expect from this year's Nutcracker.
According to Romine the school opened its doors in 2004 in the basement of the Hoxton Financial building and relocated to its current location in Sept. 2011, gradually expanding its scope.
This weekend will be the school's seventh performance of the Nutcracker Ballet Romine said.
"We had to wait until we were mature enough as school," she said.
"The Nutcracker is no small affair."
Romine said that since the schools beginnings with only two teachers, Mercedes Prohaska, and herself, it has grown include an variety of dance disciplines.
Linda Miller now also teaches classical ballet, Kitty Clark teaches advanced modern and Lauren Doty now teaches classes in intermediate and advanced tap.
Classes for adult tap and ballet students of all levels are also now offered.
"The adult program has really taken flight in the last two years," she said.
Romine has branched out as instructor as well, teaching Rommett Floor Barre classes in additional to classical ballet.
She described this as an exercise class more akin to gentle pilates than dance.
"It's really for everyone," she said.
Romine said almost the entire dance school will participate in this year's Nutcracker performance, demonstrating the students dedication to their art form.
"These kids all try to move heaven and earth to be a part of it because they love it," she said.
Kelsey Eackles, a Shepherdstown resident who has danced with the school since childhood, will play "Dew Drop."
"It's pretty cool to look up to the older girls when you're younger and now that we're this age, we're in the same parts that we looked up too," she said.
This year's "Snow Queen," 17 year-old Shepherdstown resident, Emily Baker also grew up dancing at the school.
"There's a strong sense of camaraderie," she said about the school.
"You definitely create a family," she said.
Abigail Dumas who will play the "Sugar Plum Fairy," for the second time said she was glad to join the school when she moved to the area a few years ago.
"Ms. Romine teaches really good classical ballet," she said describing what she said sets the school apart from others.
This year's Nutcracker will incorporate even more members of the local community in its group party scene, making it an even grander undertaking than years past.
Evan Reynolds, a Florida based professional dancer, will join Abigail Dumas as this year's cavalier.
Performances cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and are scheduled to take place Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
For more information visit www.shepherdstownschoolofdance.com or call 304-886-8398.