'Nutcracker' productions turn to homegrown talent

December 06, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Homegrown professional dancers will take the lead in this year's round of "The Nutcracker."

Both debuting "Nutcracker" productions this weekend, Academy of the Hagerstown Ballet Company at Antietam Ballet Theatre and the Potomac Classical Youth Ballet Company will welcome back dancers who trained locally and went on to professional dance companies.

Stephen Anaya, from Ballet Lubbock Company in Lubbock, Texas, will perform as Cavalier for Antietam, the company where he first started dancing.

Justin Leaf, from James Sewell Ballet company in Minneapolis, will also perform as Cavalier and Nutcracker Prince for the Potomac Classical Youth Ballet Company, the place where his dance training began.


Antietam's production debuts Friday at the company's theater in Sharpsburg. Potomac's debuts Saturday at The Maryland Theatre.

In past years, lead "Nutcracker" roles - generally the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy - went to professional dancers affiliated with companies such as The Joffrey Ballet in New York. Last year, Potomac Classical Youth Ballet in Hagerstown and Chambersburg (Pa.) Ballet Theatre Company featured guest artists who weren't from the area.

Local artistic directors say they do this so younger, less-experienced dancers can have the opportunity to perform with and learn from professionals.

But sometimes, hiring dancers lacking local ties has disadvantages. Some professionals have very high performance standards.

"I've had people walk off the stage," said Lauran Clowser, artistic director for Potomac Classical Youth Ballet Company.

Local performers are more humble and are more reliable, she said, adding that Leaf wasn't "diva."

Leaf, who has taught and choreographed for Potomac, received a bachelor's degree in fine arts from The Juilliard School in 2001. He has also trained at Goucher College and Pacific Northwest Ballet School.

Clowser said Leaf brings elements of traditional ballet to his performances.

"Because of his training, he adds a different flair, changing some of the lifts," Clowser said. "He gives it a more updated, contemporary feel instead of classical clich moves."

Anaya, 30, will return to Antietam as Cavalier.

Anaya will dance alongside Sugar Plum Fairy Lisa Pulse, 27, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who is currently a student with the company.

"These people are like family to me," Anaya said. "I'm super-excited."

Chambersburg (Pa.) Ballet Theatre Company, which concluded its production of "Nutcracker" on Sunday, Dec. 2, also featured former students as leads. Artistic director Lavinia Reid said Kevin Olmstead, a freelance dancer working out of Pittsburgh, danced as the Snow King, Nutcracker and a Harlequin Doll, and Brie Anne Asbury, studying at Miami City Ballet School, was Sugar Plum Fairy.

If you go ...

WHAT: Academy of the Hagerstown Ballet Company at Antietam Ballet Theatre presents "The Nutcracker"

WHEN: Debuts 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, and continues Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday, Dec. 16.

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

COST: $15

MORE: Ticket availability is limited and more dates might be added. Call 301-432-8993 for more information.

If you go ...

WHAT: Potomac Classical Youth Ballet Company presents "The Nutcracker"

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown.

COST: $23, $25 and $29

MORE: Call The Maryland Theatre for ticket information, 301-790-2000

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