A Christmas tradition

Hagerstown Ballet Company performs "The Nutcracker"

Hagerstown Ballet Company performs "The Nutcracker"

December 12, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


As a teenager, Clarissa Mathews danced in Carolou Russell's first production of "The Nutcracker."

On Sunday, the Inwood, W.Va., resident played the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Russell's 24th.

Russell's Hagerstown Ballet Company performed for about 60 people at the Antietam Ballet Theatre.

"It really brings out the Christmas feeling," said Rachel Doub, 16, of Williamsport. "Without it, my Christmas wouldn't be complete."

Doub portrayed the role of Clara, one of the ballet's principals, for the fourth year.

Russell's husband, Ray, who is the company's manager, said Doub plays more of a "dancing Clara" than may be seen in most performances of "The Nutcracker." Instead of watching as others dance and standing on the sidelines while most of the story unfolds, Doub is able to dance through most of the ballet.


"I don't like to watch," she said. "I'd much rather be dancing."

Erik Hoffman, 17, of Sharpsburg, plays the Nutcracker - his third year in the role - and described the performance and the ballet as "magical."

"It's really an opportunity to work with so many talented people," he said.

Hoffman began dancing nearly nine years ago, after a neighbor recommended he take classes with Russell.

"It was like an addiction once I got started," he said.

Because the company is small, many performers play several roles, Russell said. Hoffman danced the part of the soldier doll, as well as the principal role of the Nutcracker.

Russell said during practice, many of her younger dancers - whom she calls her "children" - were dancing well, and she decided to put them in the performance. Alexis Kershner, 9, of Maugansville, and Aryn Crawford, also 9, each dance as party children, snow, soldiers, angels and flowers.

Connor Newlon, 24, of Charles Town, W.Va., played opposite Mathews as the Cavalier. He also danced the parts of a party gentleman, the mouse king and Trepak. Newlon said his favorite part of the "The Nutcracker" is dancing the Grand Pas de Deux ith Mathews.

"It's just me and the Sugar Plum Fairy," he said. "It's very beautiful."

Unlike Doub and Hoffman, it was the first year Mathews and Newlon performed the principal roles in the production. "It's challenging, and it's an honor because it's such an important role," Mathews said.

Tootie Ridenour of Williamsport said she is Doub's Latin tutor and a family friend, but at Sunday's performance she was a fan.

"I'm here because my baby is in it," Ridenour said. "And I love this story. It gets me ready for the Christmas season."

Pat Allen, also of Williamsport, said Russell changes the choreography each year.

"It's wonderful. The children work really hard," Allen said. "And it's different every year."

If you go

What: Antietam Ballet Theatre presents "The Nutcracker"

Where: Antietam Ballet Theatre, 104 S. Mechanic St., Sharpsburg

Performances: Dec. 16-18. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.

Tickets: For ticket information, call 301-582-2222.

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