In the ballet community, "The Nutcracker" is the perennial king of December.
A theatrical holiday gift to audiences, dance companies statewide present patrons with Peter Tschaikovsky's enthralling ballet of graceful mice that wage war against nutcrackers in a fantastical world that's pulsing with stylistic footwork and stellar music.
First State Ballet Theatre, Delaware's only professional ballet troupe, will cap its 12th year of performances at Delaware Technical Community College's Owens Campus with Sussex County's longest-running production of "The Nutcracker" on Saturday. For the production, the Wilmington-based First State Ballet Theatre will be joined by guest dancers from the Sussex Dance Academy in Rehoboth.
'They're very professional'
Young SDA performers, between the ages of 6 and 10, will perform the Angels and Polichinelles variations in act two of "The Nutcracker." These are known as two of the children's sequences in the show.
For most of the 12 years that FSBT has graced the Owens Campus stage with"The Nutcracker," members of SDA have served as the show's guest performers.
The way this collaboration works is SDA Director Kate Downes Walker leads her dancers in rehearsals at her academy's studio in Rehoboth. Downes Walker teaches her students the play's choreography via a DVD that she received from Pasha Kambalov, the co-founder of FSBT and artistic director of "The Nutcracker."
SDA's dancers won't meet with FSTB's performers until a few hours before the show on Saturday. Kambalov says this arrangement has worked like a charm over the years. And he's enjoyed FSBT's longtime collaboration with SDA.
"They're very professional" Kambalov said.
'They applaud very hard' in Georgetown
Benefits of SDA's dancers appearing in "The Nutcracker" include them receiving the opportunity to be mentored by FSBT's professional performers, Kambalov said. Valuable lessons the budding performers could learn from Kambalov's camp on Saturday might include aspects that transcend dancing, such as learning "how to talk to each other, how to warm up, how to put makeup on," Kambalov said. "There's a lot of things [to figure out], and it's best to learn from professional dancers."
From FSBT's standpoint, the idea behind partnering with SDA was designed to help FSBT reach a wider audience in Sussex. The thought is that SDA's performers in "The Nutcracker" would encourage their friends and family to buy tickets to the show. Patrons who enjoyed the production would then spread the word about FSBT's talents, which would create a buzz and demand for the company's next performances downstate.
To that end, whenever FSBT has performed outside of Wilmington, it's made it a priority to collaborate with local dance companies in whatever county it's performing in.
"We take our responsibility as a statewide company very seriously and are proud to present the longest-running 'Nutcracker' in Sussex County," said Robert Grenfell, president and executive director of FSBT. "We're also proud that, in a world where the price of virtually everything has gone up, our tickets for this weekend's show are the same price as they were for our first performance in 2002."
Page 2 of 2 - Over the years, Georgetown's reception of FSBT's "The Nutcracker" has been splendid, Kambalov said. And he anticipates more of the same on Saturday.
"They are very warm," Kambalov said. "They applaud very hard. They just love what they're doing and we love to be there, and we want to be there more if they'll have us."
Owens Campus Vice President and Director Dr. Ileana Smith adores FSBT's presence on campus.
"We are delighted to have partnered with FSBT for the past 12 years to make 'The Nutcracker' at Delaware Tech a Sussex County tradition," said Smith, "and we look forward to another wonderful performance."
IF YOU GO
WHAT First State Ballet Theatre presents 'The Nutcracker'
WHEN 7 p.m., Saturday
WHERE Delaware Technical Community College Owens Campus, 21179 College Drive, Georgetown
COST $20 for adults and $15 for children
INFO Visit firststateballet.com or call 259-6102