The Nutcracker to return to the Frank Arts Center stage this weekend
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Some of Emily Romine’s first memories are of watching The Nutcracker being performed. Her five-year-old awe of the ballet continued through her many years of ballet training, performing a number of the roles, from those of a soldier and ginger kid when she was nine, to the coveted roles of Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Romine’s love for the ballet drove her to incorporate it into the annual repertoire of her ballet studio, Shepherdstown School of Dance, 12 years ago.
“Our first Nutcracker was in 2007, and we have done one every year since,” Romine said, mentioning the studio was founded in 2003, and needed those four years to allow the school’s students to grow enough to undertake the ballet’s demanding roles.
“The Nutcracker, the full-length Nutcracker is quite an undertaking, so we needed to get our foundations in place, and have students who were developed enough to take on all of the various roles,” Romine said. “It’s really gratifying, to be able to pass on a part of your life that brought you so much joy, and continues to. It’s really special.”
The two-act, two-hour performance was choreographed by Romine, following a traditional interpretation of the ballet. While the music and choreography do not change every year, other elements of the performance are different every year.
“The Nutcracker is such a magical production, and the set and props really contribute to that,” Romine said. “One example of that is the party scene set – we have a giant grandfather clock on stage, we have a fire place, we have a door that comes in and, of course, the most exciting thing is the Christmas tree that grows. Two years ago we added giant dolls that come out of boxes. Every year we try to add a different element.”
Another new element in this year’s performance, are the dancers playing each role. Ballet San Antonio’s Ryland Acree will be performing the role of the Nutcracker, after he is transformed into a prince. Clara will be performed by Ashton Knutson, a Jefferson High School freshman. The Sugar Plum Fairy will be portrayed by Gabrielle Butler, a junior at Hedgesville High School. The Dew Drop Fairy, who is the lead role in the Waltz of the Flowers, will be performed by Maryland high school student Emily Sykes. The Snow Queen will be portrayed by Kaitlyn McJury, a senior at Jefferson High School.
While most of the casting is new, Romine said one character will remain unchanged.
“The man who plays Clara’s father, Michael Santa Barbara, he has been playing that roll since the very first year. It’s a tradition for the audience, and a tradition that’s been built in for us as well,” Romine said, mentioning that a few other community members will be playing non dancing roles in the ballet’s party scene. “About 60 students and community members create the total package.”
The Nutcracker will be performed in the Frank Arts Center on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets will cost $18 per person in advance, or $22 per person at the door. Order tickets online at shepherstownschoolofdance.com or call Encore Apparel in Motion at 304-876-3040.