Pointe of the season: Reality TV stars headline LV Ballet Guild ‘Nutcracker’
The Ballet Guild of Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (PYB) present their 49th annual holiday production of “The Nutcracker,” the longest-running “Nutcracker” ballet production in the Lehigh Valley.
“The Nutcracker” is presented at 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 17, Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem.
The whimsical tale of young Clara and her beloved Christmas toy delights audiences of all ages. With fresh choreography and brilliant new costumes, PYB’s “Nutcracker” promises an enchanting voyage of song and dance.
“The Nutcracker,” with a score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, first opened in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1892. Choreographer George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet revival in the 1950s made the show a popular holiday tradition in the United States.
Under Artistic Director Karen Kroninger Knerr, “The Nutcracker” boasts a cast of more than 100 professional, pre-professional and student performers.
Beckanne Sisk, Principal dancer with Ballet West, is a guest performer and plays the Sugar Plum Fairy. Sisk received the Jerome Robbins award in 2007, joined Ballet West II in 2010 and was promoted to principal artist in 2015. She has performed leading roles in “Don Quixote,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake.”
Guest performer Chase O’Connell plays the Cavalier. O’Connell is also a principal dancer with Ballet West. O’Connell studied at the Royal Ballet School in London and was offered a contract with the Paris Opera Ballet Company. He has performed leading roles in Balanchine’s “Symphony in C,” “Fancy Free,” “Petit Mort” and “Forgotten Land.”
Sisk and O’Connell were featured in the 2012 reality TV series “Breaking Pointe.”
Kroninger Knerr contacted the director of Ballet West and requested a couple to perform. Sisk and O’Connell were chosen. This will be their first year performing together in “The Nutcracker.”
“I’ve probably performed almost every single part that there is [in ‘The Nutcracker’],” says Sisk in a phone interview from her home in Longview, Tex. “I would have to say my favorite is the Snow scene. It’s so much fun.”
Sisk’s two-season stint in a television series about an elite ballet company in Salt Lake City revealed the beauty and grace of dance, as well as the fierce intensity of competition which exists in the world of ballet.
“It was a behind-the-scenes reality TV show about us dancers at Ballet West.”
When asked if she prefers television work to onstage performing, Sisk says, “Oh, no. Live dancing, always.”
Aynsley Taylor Inglis, instructor at PYB, will play the Snow Queen. Inglis received Pointe magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award, the Bronze medal at the USA Russian Pointe Competition in 2005, and received the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts 2005 Merit Award for Ballet.
The role of Clara will be alternated between Mai Hukuoka, a sixth grade student at Springhouse Middle School, Parkland School District, and by Madison Pellegrin, a sixth grade student at J.T. Lambert Middle School, East Stroudsburg School District.
Dew Drop will be played by Elisabeth Lee, an 11th grader at Liberty High School, Bethlehem Area School District.
The South Side Sinfonietta, a 48-piece orchestra, under the direction of Eugene Albulescu of Lehigh University, will accompany each performance. More than 80 area students will sing “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” They will also sing holiday songs in the Zoellner lobby prior to performances.
Four performances will be presented for area school children. Nearly 4,000 students are expected to see the production for free or at reduced prices. Also, 200 students from the Boys and Girls Club of Bethlehem, Allentown, Easton and Northeast Ministries will be guests at “The Nutcracker” performances, thanks to the generosity of sponsors who covered cost of tickets and transportation.
From the opening Party scene, to the Mouse King fight, to the sultry Arabian dance, “The Nutcracker” enthralls fans on many levels. Sisk believes the ballet endures because it reflects such a special time of year and stirs memories.
“There’s something about the music,” says Sisk. “Everyone has heard much of the music of ‘Nutcracker.’ I feel it brings a nostalgic, old-time ‘when you were a kid’ feel. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you just feel happy and it really does something to you.”
Tickets: Zoellner Arts Center box office, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem; firstname.lastname@example.org; 610-7LU-ARTS