The Nutcracker comes to life on Frank Center stage
Sadie Arnold, 13, loves to dance and she loves the fact that she will play Clara in the Shepherdstown School of Dance production of The Nutcracker this weekend. Arnold is one of more than 85 participants in the holiday production which has become a tradition for the school.
In previous years, Arnold has played a variety of roles in the show and moves into the role of Clara with joy and a bit of nerves.
“I am very nervous about this weekend because it’s our first time in our roles,” she said speaking of herself and Richard Yates who will play the Nutcracker prince. “But, it’s exciting,” she smiled.
Her exuberance over the show and dancing in particular was shared by all of the dancers in attendance at Tuesday evening’s rehearsal.
Tori Obendorfer, who has been dancing for eight years, says that she dances five days a week with the added rehearsals for the upcoming performance.
“I think it’s worth it,” she says. “It makes you a better dancer.” Obendorfer says that her favorite part is the wooden doll although she also plays snow, flowers and Chinese this year. “My partner is my best friend, Jo Jo,” she said, so that makes it even more fun.
Jo Jo Cifala agrees. “I really like ballet and hanging out with my friends here,” she added. “The teachers are great and all my friends are here.”
That feeling of family and friendship could be felt throughout the studio. Kelsy Eackles, who this year plays the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, summed it up by saying, “It is a family here.”
Eackles will have the pleasure of dancing with Jordan Nelson, a professional dancer coming from Chicago who will play opposite her in her performance. Nelson has visited Shepherdstown for some rehearsals already, something Eackles says she took full advantage of to learn from him.
“It’s a great experience to work with a professional. He has already taught me so many different ways to do things,” she said. The 15-year-old Jefferson High student says that she has been dancing since she was three or four years of age.
The commitment to the art of dance can be seen and felt at the studio and the plans to continue dance are held by all who feel the passion for what they do. The students speak highly of the instructors, especially Emily Romine who serves as the school’s artistic director.
Romine, who has a background in classical ballet, started dancing at the age of nine. Growing up in Martinsburg, she recalls fondly taking classes in the ballroom of the Shepherdstown Men’s Club.
In 2003 she joined with Mercedes Prohaska to open the dance studio, which she says has only grown since then.
Originally the school produced one show per year in the spring; however, Romine said they added “The Nutcracker” in 2006.Until this year’s performances, the school presented two showings; however, with the high demand for tickets, they have expanded to three shows for this weekend. Romine indicated that tickets for the Sunday performance have already sold out.
“These performers want a full house,” she said. “These kids work for the love of it, they are not getting paid. They give up a lot of things through the years for their dance,” she explained.
The cast has been practicing specifically for this production since October, Romine said; however, she stressed that the practice is continual.
“By the very nature of what we do here, we have worked all year,” she said.
Ariel Cifala confirmed Romine’s comments adding, “We practice all year. We learn so much from Ms. Romine; she gives us the whole package.” Cifala, 13, has been dancing for 10 years, as has her friend, Rachael Cochran. They describe themselves as not only friends, but almost like sisters.
Joining in for her first year in The Nutcracker is Haven Leigh, 9. “The people here are really nice and so is the teacher,” she said of the school. “The Nutcracker is fun to do. It’s like a team,” she explained.
Emily Baker, who has been at the school since it opened, broadened the scope to say that those at the school are more than friends. “I’ve grown up with these girls, it’s our family,” she said.
The evidence of the joy felt in the dance will come across this weekend to those who are able to secure tickets to the show. Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, although the Sunday tickets are already sold out. For more information on the show and ticket availability, call 304-264-1832 or 304-886-8398.