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'Nutcracker' thrills and chills ice rink audience

December 21, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Tchaikovsky played over the loudspeakers as the youthful dancers skated and twirled over the ice Saturday evening at the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex.

The troupe of skaters performed the holiday favorite, "The Nutcracker," while parents and friends watched and tried to stay warm.

"I think it's great. My little granddaughter is in it," said Patricia Brown, 49, of Hagerstown.

Brown was among dozens who had come to the rink to watch the 50-minute show, featuring 16 skaters who portrayed sugar plum fairies, snowflakes, princes, princesses, dolls and clowns in Tchaikovsky's winter classic put to ice.

"I just love ice skating ... It's so graceful. It's elegant ... It's just amazing some of the things they learn and do," Brown said.

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The stands were packed with parents and kids who were trying to keep warm. Even in the enclosed rink, blankets, hats, gloves and hot chocolate were a must.

Jack Nelson's daughter, Samantha, played the Russian Dancer in Saturday's performance. She usually skates three times a week. Nelson said he's become used to the cold rink, although the wooden benches can be a little chilly.

"Bring a blanket to sit on ... Your butt gets a little cold," said Nelson, 52, of Chambersburg.

He said the show fit well with the season. "It's a good thing right before Christmas."

Brittany Bender, 13, was one of the skaters Saturday. Her big scene was as the Snow Queen in the third act, sliding across the ice in a split.

She was in the stands for a few minutes before the finale. She said while it was stressful getting ready for the show after weeks of practice, there is a good side, too.

"It's actually fun. You get to dress up, you get to be with your friends, and your coaches help you out a lot," Brittany said.

Bender's mother, Michelle Bender, 36, said it was fun for her, too.

Even though it's scary to see her daughter take spills, "it's really good to see her skate, progress, move up," Bender said.

Jennifer Kaszubski is the skating director for the ice rink. She coordinated Saturday's program and also coaches skating throughout the year.

She said the kids all chose their roles in the musical, which was the culmination of a 14-week program.

"They love it. As long as they're skating, they don't care what the music is," Kaszubski said.

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