STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
Since 1967, the Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance has performed the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker.” This year’s version features a full orchestra and chorus, Principal Dancers from New York City Ballet, and a total of 85 dancers. Members of Jenkintown’s Metropolitan Ballet Company again will perform as part of the cast.
Metropolitan Ballet Company, now in its 19th year, has a long history of collaboration.
“Making these connections, performing a lot, and working with a wide variety of choreographers and directors is a pivotal part of the training offered at Metropolitan,” said Lisa Collins Vidnovic, artistic director of Metropolitan Ballet Academy and Company.
The company has collaborated with Settlement Music School, Temple Opera, Pennsylvania Ballet, and more.
“It’s always a joy to see our pre-professional dancers take on the challenges of time-honored classics such as ‘The Nutcracker,’” she said.
Caleb Mansor, 14, of Hatboro, is performing in his first Nutcracker, playing the role of the Harlequin doll. The homeschooled ninth grader is looking forward to it.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “You get to pretend to be a doll with robotic motions.”
This is his third year dancing (he takes classes as part of the Metropolitan’s Scholarship program, which aims to make ballet more accessible to boys). He always liked to dance, but is enjoying learning the proper steps of ballet. He likes that dance allows him to express himself.
“I like showing the story through the music and the motions of my body,” he said.
He practices and takes classes at least two days a week. It’s hard work, but it’s building his stamina, which helps him to keep going when he’s tired, he said.
Sophie Lane, 16, of Elkins Park is dancing in her first Nutcracker in Wilmington. She has performed in the show with other companies, including the Pennsylvania Ballet. The junior at 21st Century Cyber Charter School has been dancing since she was 5, after she saw “The Nutcracker” on TV.
“I saw the Snow Queen and told my parents, ‘I want to be her,’ so they signed me up for dance classes,” she said. “I love it.”
She’s most looking forward to dancing with a live orchestra.
“You have to work with the conductor,” she said. “That’s always fun.”
She just loves to perform.
“Since I was a little kid, I would dance around my house in tutus,” she said. “I’ve always been infatuated with costumes and performing in general.”
She’ll dance various roles in Wilmington, including the Arabian dance, which requires a lot of flexibility and acting.
“I’m really excited. I get to be the lead, so it’s fun,” she said. “You have to act like you’re sensual and mysterious.”
She’s hopeful that in the coming years, she’ll be able to dance other Nutcracker roles, like the Snow Queen or the Sugar Plum Fairy. They’re leads, too, but usually for principal dancers, who are a bit older than she is.
Lane never tires of this holiday ballet and can’t wait to get on stage in Wilmington.
“It’s an incredible experience,” she said. “With the snow and all of the little tricks, it’s really magical. It’s like a dream.”
IF YOU GO
What: “The Nutcracker” by Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance featuring Metropolitan Ballet Company members
When: Performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20; and 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21.
Where: DuPont Theatre, 1007 N. Market St., Wilmington, De.
Info.: Call (800)338-0881 or visit http://wilmingtonballet.org/nutcracker/