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Two ballerinas’ dreams come true year after year performing in ‘The Nutcracker’

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STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON 
For 21st Century Media

Editor’s note: An If You Go box and  list of other area performances are listed below.

Every ballet student knows of and dreams of dancing in “The Nutcracker,” the holiday show featuring music by Tchaikovsky. In the ballet, a girl named Clara gets a Nutcracker doll from a toymaker. She falls asleep under the Christmas tree and finds herself in a magical world of dancing mice, toy soldiers, fairies, tasty treats, and her Nutcracker, who comes to life.
Kelsey Voelker, 17, of Harleysville, isn’t dreaming when she steps on stage to perform in the holiday classic with the Delaware Valley Dance Academy. She has danced many roles throughout her career and this year she’ll dance several at the various performances, the most prominent being the principal role of Dew Drop (during the Saturday night show).
That character is featured in “The Waltz of the Flowers.” For about seven minutes, Voelker leads the flowers and bees through the dance. Her costume looks like flower petals and it sparkles. That makes the role even more fun, she said.
She loves it despite the fact that the entire dance is performed en pointe (gliding, stepping and leaping from the tips of her toes in special ballet shoes that help to support her).
“It’s difficult and hurts at times,” she said. “Sometimes, my feet feel like they’re going to fall off.”
But when she’s performing, she doesn’t think about that. In fact, she doesn’t even notice if there’s any pain at all.
“If you’re dancing, you’re not thinking ‘my feet hurt.’ You’re just thinking about the dance and having fun,” she said.
Voelker has been dancing for 15 years. She likes learning new steps and then trying to perfect them. And she enjoys being on stage.
“You have to make it look soft and beautiful, and smile,” she said. “Listening to the music and letting go – that’s the best thing in the world. It’s my place to be free.”
Jaime L. Louis, of West Chester, understands. She has performed roles in “The Nutcracker” for years with Brandywine Ballet Company, which is staging this show for the 35th time.
Louis first put on ballet slippers at age 3. This year, at 26, she’s sharing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy with another dancer (they’ll each perform that principal role in four of the eight shows). The Sugar Plum Fairy reigns over the Land of Sweets.
“It’s her kingdom and she welcomes Clara,” Louis said.
The Fairy explains that everyone is there for her amusement and “we’re going to dance from our hearts for her,” she said.
Louis loves this role and she, too, will dance a majority en pointe.
“There’s beautiful music and a pretty costume,” she said. “It’s so regal, so very classical.”
Dance was a huge part of Louis’ life growing up and still is. After graduating from college, she worked with contemporary company BalletX in Philadelphia. She still took classes at and performed with Brandywine. Now, she dances with Brandywine again and works on the administrative side as the interim director of operations. She’s happy to dance and to support an organization she loves at the same time.
“It’s like a family. Everyone is so wonderful,” she said. “It’s very cool that I get to perform at the professional level that I’m at alongside girls that are 10 to 12.”
Louis remembers playing an angel in “The Nutcracker” when she was that age.
“It was so special and thrilling and inspiring,” she said. “It’s fulfilling for me to be in that position where I’m hopefully inspiring some of these young dancers that are hungry and talented to grow artistically.”
No matter what part she plays, Louis always is thrilled to be in “The Nutcracker.”
“It’s a timeless classic,” she said.

“THE NUTCRACKER”
Brandywine Ballet
When: Dec. 12-21
Where: Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 700 S. High St., West Chester.
Tickets: $25-$42
Info.: Call (610) 696-2711 or visit www.brandywineballet.org
Delaware Valley Dance Academy
When: Dec. 5-6
Where: Calvary Church, 820 Route 113, Souderton.
Tickets: $25; seniors, students $21
Info.: Call (215) 822-4640 or visit www.delawarevalleydance.com

OTHER AREA PERFORMANCES

Below is a sampling of other area companies’ performances:
 Fifty local children from the International Ballet Exchange will join 18 professional dancers from the Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine to perform “The Nutcracker” at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 2 p.m. Dec. 21 at Plymouth/Whitemarsh High School, 201 E. Germantown Pike, Plymouth Township. Tickets are $28, $18 for students and seniors. Visit http://ibexchange.ticketleap.com or call (215) 849-7950.
 Wayne Ballet Theater presents “The Nutcracker” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13 and at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14 at Upper Merion Area Middle School, 450 Keebler Road, King of Prussia. Tickets are $25 for adults; $20 for students and seniors. For tickets, call (610) 688-3904, email wayneballet@gmail.com or at the door.
The Pennsylvania Ballet presents George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” running Dec. 6-31 at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia. For tickets and performance times, visit www.paballet.org.
On Nov. 30 Dance Elite of Horsham will bring “The Nutcracker” to Gwynedd Mercy Academy’s Performing Arts Center, 1345 Sumneytown Pike, Lower Gwynedd. The ballet features Richboro resident, Katherine Barkman, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, guest artist Ilya Artamonov of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Company, and Anastasia Zlotnikov, of the Kremlin Classical Ballet Company, as the Snow Queen. Sam Balka of Newtown, and Marley Madding of New Hope, will dance the Spanish Divertissement. Other local performers include Lauren Barkman, Sophia Ponomarenko of Doylestown, Ashley Nemchinov of Horsham, and Philadelphia’s Chisena Danza founder, Melissa Chisena. Curtain time is 3 p.m. Tickets range from $18-$26. See http://nutcrackerballet.brownpapertickets.com or call (215) 675-1911.
Repertory Dance Theatre and Allentown Symphony Orchestra present “The Nutcracker” at 2 p.m. Dec. 13-14 at Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown. Check on ticket availability at (610) 432-6715 or www.millersymphonyhall.org.
The Conservatory of Music and Dance presents “The Nutcracker” at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 and 1 p.m. Dec. 21 at Gwynedd-Mercy Academy, 1345 Sumneytown Pike, Lower Gwynedd. Tickets are $24. Check www.paperformingarts.com.
Holiday treats
 First Position Dance Arts of Ardmore will be hosting a World Holiday Tea for 3-7 year olds from 12:30 to 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. “Pages to Pirouettes,” directed by Susan Cade, will be presenting several excerpts from “The Nutcracker.” First Position Dance Arts staff and friends will be sharing with tea goers’ holiday celebration stories from around the world, exploring how other cultures celebrate the season. Tea, beverages, finger foods and healthy desserts will be served. Children will create a fun craft to give to a loved as a special gift. Children will also go home with goodie bags filled with items representing the holidays celebrated around the world. The World Holiday Tea will take place at First Position Dance Arts at 19 W. Lancaster Ave., First Floor (handicap accessible). Cost is $40 for one adult and child, $15 for each additional child. Reservations must be made by Wednesday, Dec. 3 at firstpositionda@gmail.com or by calling (610) 642-4630.
 The Pennsylvania Ballet’s second-annual Nutcracker Market takes place at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, Dec. 10, through 14. The Market is free and open to the public. Some 70 juried regional and national artists and artisans will be on hand selling their wares. Exhibitor merchandise will include toys, handcrafted jewelry, games, ornaments, photography, artisan-crafted clothing, functional art, calligraphy, ceramics, fine art, and ballet-inspired wares. The Nutcracker Market’s World Stage will feature free live performances celebrating culture from near and far with a local Baptist choir, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, tap dancers, Irish dancers, Indian dancers, a Cambodian dance troupe, Polish folk dance, and Argentine tango. In addition, free daily family-oriented activities and entertainment are planned. Themed nights are planned as well as a special ticketed preview party. The Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker Market benefits the Pennsylvania Ballet and The School of the Pennsylvania Ballet and is produced in partnership with the Kimmel Center. For a detailed schedule and more information, check www.paballet.org/nutmarket.

— Compiled by 21st Century Media staff

 

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