The Nutcracker

892c573686ce7c4ce7a9c8b4b9053750c09f3afdThe Nutcracker is an annual choreography performance put on by Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School’s dance department. Dancers from second grade up to twelfth appeared in this rendition for the weekend-long event.

Based on the 1816 novel by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the music composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is about a young girl named Clara who is gifted a nutcracker at her family’s Christmas Eve party by her magical godfather, Drosselmeyer. That night, she dreams of a heroic nutcracker soldier defending her from an army of mice. Then, Clara and the nutcracker embark on a journey through a magical land of snow and sweets until she wakes up, still holding the nutcracker that was given to her.

In any sort of choreography, the dancers have to be disciplined in order to perfect the techniques and balancing required to perform this advanced level of dancing. They have to learn how to keep going despite any costuming difficulties, or if they were to fall, trip, and so on. Dance performances are not only about the footwork but also about the facial expressions. It is almost like acting — they have to exaggerate their facials in order to portray emotion (especially since there are no speaking parts) — all the while keeping a bright smile on their faces.

These dancers did just that. They depicted immense amounts of discipline as they effortlessly performed the routines with poise and a grin. From what my eyes could see, I did not see a single mistake made by the dancers. And if there was one, they covered it up so well that I thought it to be part of the dance. Both the Center and dance department did astonishing work at training these students/dancers.

The strength these dancers behold is unimaginable. They require so much arm strength in order to pick and toss each other up. One of my favorite duos has to be the Scottish Macaroons (Olivia Tarchick and Jacob Butterfield). They executed multiple tosses and holding while Tarchick held poses and swung around in Butterfield’s arms as he held her high up. The grand applause they received from the audience was deserved.

There was one major variation to this performance than from most versions that I have seen. When Clara (Jocelyn Scullion) and Fritz (Josh Lyda) are fighting over the nutcracker, instead of one of the arms breaking off, the head snaps off. But then, Drosselmeyer (Rosh Raines) magically fixes the broken gift. In most renditions, the arm breaks off and is “fixed” by giving the arm a makeshift sling. Then while Clara dreams that night, the nutcracker appears with the sling on (which, later on, his arm magically heals).

For as old as The Nutcracker is (the first performance being in 1892), it is said that the sugar plum fairy dance is one of the more difficult numbers in the production. Macy Minear, who played the Sugar Plum Fairy, made that number seem effortless. Even whenever the ribbon from one of her pointe shoes came loose, she continued on as if nothing ever happened. Minear remained ongoing as she danced, not allowing the ribbon to get in the way.

Along with the older form of The Nutcracker, we see an original version of the Mouse King (Jacob Butterfield) that is not shown quite often in performances. In the book, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the Mouse King is depicted as having seven heads. Then, when Butterfield came out on stage at the Center, there was the gigantic mask with seven little mouse faces forming a circle around the wearer’s head, and a crown on top. Typically, the Mouse King is shown in performances with only one normal head.

A fun fact about the Mainstage Theater stage at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center is that it is twice the size of the Byham Theater’s. At the beginning of the show, only a small portion of the stage was available as they had a wintery backdrop closing off the rest. After small groups walked from one side to the other, mimicking families on the way to the Christmas Eve party, the backdrop became transparent, thus revealing the rest of the stage. This showed us two maids (Paige Mathieson and Alexandra Trimber) preparing for the guests to arrive as they twirled and dusted about.

Although The Nutcracker is over, tickets are on sale for the next upcoming musical, The Great Gatsby. You can see this at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, Pennsylvania from February 16-18 and 23-25. Tickets range from $15 and $20 and can be purchased online at lincolnparkarts.org.