It is winter in Swarthmore. Dusk comes earlier, garlands are wound around the street lamps, and the dancers appear! Flowing out of Swarthmore Ballet Theatre and wandering down Park Avenue, the dancers big and small fill our town with bobbing buns and anticipation.
This year’s tickets to Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn’s “The Nutcracker” sold out within an hour. In an act of generosity, the company agreed to add one more performance so that those of us with ballet students who weren’t in line at 9am for the original 12noon ticket sale had a chance to attend.
The tiny theatre was packed when we arrived. An audience of adults and wide-eyed children gathered in the intimate space. My little helpers and I were in the front row and actually had to pay attention not to step on the Marley! The lights went down and Ms. Ardis came out to explain the story in a way that helped the littlest guests understand what they were going to see. Then the overture began.
Many ballet school companies would not attempt a full production of “The Nutcracker”. We were delighted to see a complete ballet and to hear the whole score at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre. More impressively, the audience, with many four year olds in attendance, was rapt for the whole production.
Ms. Ardis and Ms. Flynn’s ballet offered us an older Clara, which is true to the Hoffman story. Anna Si was absolutely lovely as Clara and so accomplished that she was a joy to watch. Nearly as impressive as her excellent technique was her incredible stamina. Ardis and Flynn put her to work and she delivered!
Soloist Emma Sniegowski’s Heart Doll was coolly convincing and her searing Arabian solo in an ethereal veil costume was complicated and exciting. Grace Hodges was a favorite with my little ballet students – her Spanish dance was compelling and she stood out elsewhere in the corps. As a matter of fact several Hodges kept the night moving! Denise Hodges’s Mother character was properly proper and her Mother Ginger was delightfully silly. William Hodges (as the Nutcracker) Rose (in the corps) and Nathaniel (as a mouse) all helped to tell the story. The number of highly talented young soloists in the company was amazing and the entire hardworking corps was impressive in their skill and discipline. From the littlest of Mother Ginger’s children to the flowers, dewdrops, and shepherdesses, each member of the company brought something special to the whole.
The final standout was Alia Federico. She got a laugh on her entrance as a snobby mother in the party scene. But we had no idea how she would transform for the second act! Her Sugar Plum Fairy was absolutely exquisite. Partnering her was Donn Guthrie, who also played Drosselmeyer with flair.
In all, we were blown away with the professionalism of this production. Although tickets are no longer available, the best way to remember your tickets for next year is to enroll your kids (or yourself) in classes! You can visit Swarthmore Ballet Theatre here.
Ms. Lori Ardis kindly allowed me to post her beautiful production stills in this blog. Feel free to visit the “audience pictures” post if you want to see the original pictures that went with this blog. You can also email me your own audience photos to be posted there.
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