Dec 072012

By Kim Grizzard

Friday, December 7, 2012

The one weekend out of six that Richard Krusch is not dancing with Carolina Ballet in The Nutcracker, he is spending in Greenville with Dance Arts Theatre, performing The Nutcracker ballet.

Krusch is among four members of Carolina Ballet spending their one weekend off during the holiday season performing the classic ballet in East Carolina University’s Wright Auditorium. Krusch’s fellow principal dancers — Timour Bourtasenkov, Gabor Kapin and Lilyan Vigo Ellis — also will share the stage for this weekend’s production. Other guest performers include Kelsey Tipton, a graduate of the ECU School of Theatre and Dance; Cheetah Platt, formerly of Cirque Du Soleil; and Oliver Beres of New Jersey Ballet, a former member of Carolina Ballet.

It is the largest representation of guest artists from a single professional company in the 21-year history of the local production, a fundraiser that since 2001 has generated more than $80,000 for Children’s Miracle Network.

“It is unusual that I was able to have them (four dancers from Carolina Ballet) all in one production,” said Sherryl Tipton, director and owner of the North Carolina Academy of Dance Arts and artistic director of Dance Arts Theatre. “But they have enjoyed their previous working relationships with us, and when the opportunity for our performance presented itself, they were interested in performing with us this year.”

Krusch, a guest artist in the Dance Arts Theatre production two years ago, is glad for the chance to return to the Greenville stage for the popular Christmas ballet, which tells the story of a little girl whose beloved nutcracker soldier is magically transformed into a handsome prince.

“Last year we (Carolina Ballet members) were performing our Nutcracker every weekend nonstop,” he said. “(This year) we only have this week off.

“I don’t think we could get better hospitality anywhere else,” Krusch said. “I had such a good time and a great experience here. I wanted to come back.”

Guest artists are a welcome addition for students at the N.C. Academy of Dance Arts, who have invested years in training to have this opportunity to share the spotlight with dancers of international acclaim. For seniors like Michaela Jones (Clara) and Katherine Corbett (Snow Queen), being paired on stage with one of the dancers they have admired for years is as much a dream as The Nutcracker itself.

“It’s definitely a unique experience that we get to have,” senior dancer Annagrace Anderson said. “I’ve seen some of them dance on stage with professional companies. To get to see them dance with us is really exciting.”

In the final days of preparation, there is excitement among dancers throughout the academy, where dancers as young as 8 are working to perfect their roles and are having last-minute adjustments made to their costumes. There have been several additional costumes created for this year’s production, which boasts its largest-ever cast of nearly 150 dancers. New to this year’s cast are a younger brother and sister for Clara and Fritz and six miniature Christmas ornaments, complete with hooks. The production last year added six tiny mice to the Mouse King scene in the first act.

“A lot of times some companies have tried nouveau approaches in that they will use a slightly different, non-traditional concept,” Tipton said. “Basically we have tried to maintain that ours follows the traditional, classic ballet.

“It’s a lot about a child’s ability to have that fantasy, so we’ve maintained that,” she said. “What we’ve tried to do is add to the fantasy of that dream.”

This year’s additions have included dancing gingerbread cookies in the second act with Mother Ginger and Lord and Lady Buttercream, who welcome Clara and the prince to the Kingdom of Sweets.

Tipton enjoys sketching new characters and then working with costuming and choreography to make them three-dimensional. She believes that introducing different roles adds a dimension for the audience as well.

“I think that makes it fun for the audience that there are unexpected surprises in each scene,” she said. “Especially if they’re part of the traditional audience, they have something that will catch their eye that they have not seen before.”

Perhaps the most talked-about additions to the cast are two life-sized cupcakes.

“The audience never sees their feet or their arms,” Tipton said, laughing. “They genuinely see these two frosted-with-sprinkles cupcakes with the face of a child, and they have a movement pattern that looks like they’re literally gliding on the floor.

“Now every child wants to be the cupcake.”

Krusch and Beres, who both grew up studying at the Hungarian Dance Academy in Budapest, Hungary, remember performing The Nutcracker from childhood, graduating from one role to the next as they advanced in the art form.

“You work your way through every single role,” said Krusch, who began performing in The Nutcracker as one of the Mirliton dancers.

“And you see it every year,” added Beres, who began as a soldier.

Yet after nearly two decades each of performing the ballet, the dancers never seem to tire of it. The Nutcracker never loses its magic.

“The story’s the same; the music is the same,” Krusch said. “But it has a special feeling to it.”

via The Daily Reflector.


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