Category Archives: Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at SBT

 

Cast

From left: Geraldine Leech as Hermia, Will McCullough as Lysander, Kevin Gardiner as Demetrius, Anna Morreale as Helena and Anna Si as Titania

Late spring has sprung in Swarthmore, bringing with her the lush flowers and the shady tree canopy and the Farmers Market, and of course, the ballet.

 

Sweet young love is in the air at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre and the result is not what you might think – at least not at first! Shakespeare’s classic tale of love gone wrong and then very wrong and then right again is played out with humor in this dreamy production.

 

The performance space at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre is not large. Most productions have ingeniously minimal set pieces. But stepping inside the theatre for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the audience is instantly transported to the enchanted wood outside Athens. A venerable oak seemingly sprouts out of the stage floor. Boulders and vines blend the lines between the upper and lower stages.

 

At last Saturday morning’s production, a sold-out crowd of lucky audience members young and old watched the lights go down and then Mrs. Ardis herself came out to remind us of the story of the bard’s beloved tale.

 

Then the lights went down and out came the elegant Trinity Clow-McLaughlin to draw us into the story with a solo accompanying a narration of the fairy’s classic over hill over dale speech.

 

After that the show exploded forward with bevies of fireflies and fairies setting the mood of the magical forest and making the way for the fairy royalty.

 

Don Guthrie danced Oberon with great dignity, and Anna Si was appropriately indignant and haughty as Titania when Guthrie slyly tried to assume custody of her sprightly changeling boy, danced by Nate Mitchell. When it was clear that the fight was on between the fairy king and queen it was time for them to make way for the lovers.

 

Even if it’s been a while since you read Midsummer in high school, the four lovers made their roles clear with their first rate acting and the help of gorgeous costumes that helped the audience see who was meant to be together.

 

Though there were many laugh-out-loud moments in this ballet, few were funnier than the pas de deux between unrequited loves. Demetrius (Kevin Gardiner) expressed dismay when he suddenly found himself dancing with a hilariously enamored Helena (Anna Morreale). And later, Lysander (Will McCullough) abandoned poor Hermia (Martine Leech) for Helena, whom he was devastated to catch dancing with Demetrius. The lovers’ fight scene was incredible too.

 

Of course it’s not Midsummer without Puck. Nathanial Hodges was perfectly playful and spent as much time airborne as he did on the stage. His interactions with Oberon and with his butterfly companion (Elizabth Si) were light-hearted and delightfully expressive.

 

Led by William Hodges as Bottom, the rude mechanicals were fantastically funny. When Puck used his magic pollen to make Titania fall in love with Bottom the whole audience held our breath in anticipation.

 

Anna Si is such an achingly elegant dancer. It can be all too easy to forget her silly streak. The scene where Hodges literally chews the scenery as Si falls madly in love with him, donkey ears and all was desperately funny.

 

But what brought down the house was the arrival of the fairy attendants to dance with Titania. One after the next they each entered gracefully for their dance, only to do a comic double-take at the shocking sight of their mistress dancing with a donkey. By the time the final fairy danced in and then wandered to the edge of the wings in confusion the audience was in stitches.

 

Naturally Oberon urged Puck to make things right and one by one the lovers and Titania were all made to fall in love with their right partner.

 

At last Hippolyta (danced with strength and passion by Maia Virgil) arrived. She and the Duchess presided over a truly lavish wedding attended by a flock of flower girls whose infectious enthusiasm brought joy to the audience as well as the couples onstage.

 

Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn choreograph every single ballet on the dancers, meaning that every note of this two-hour production was crafted precisely to mine the talents of the dancers at hand. The result is that every dancer onstage is stretching his or her skills to the limit. And what they can accomplish is absolutely stunning.

 

If you are looking for a fun and inspiring way to spend your Saturday night, rumor has it that there are a few tickets left for the 7:30pm performance. Stop by the door at 7pm to check in!

 

Meanwhile, if you want to be sure not to forget to snag tickets next time, why not sign up for classes at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre? Learn more on their website at http://swarthmoreballet.com.

 

For info on what it’s like to study Ballet at SBT, check out the post here!

Flower girls

The flower girls spin and smile through their enthusiastically energetic dance…

 

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Late Spring in Swarthmore…

1 Food Truckathon

The Food Truckathon brought out Swarthmoreans & visitors to enjoy good food & company…

4. SRS Orchestra Performance

The hardworking students and music teachers of Swarthmore-Rutledge Elementary School hosted their final concert of the year. The auditorium was packed with fans, many of whom were willing to accept standing room space in order to enjoy the sounds of the young musicians.

5. Twilight

Peaceful twilight in springtime Swarthmore. This beautifully repurposed sitting area by the municipal lot & library looks like it has been there forever, lampposts and all…

Would you like to learn more about life in our village? I’d love to be your Swarthmore real estate agent! Just shoot me an email at carrie@dpwelsh.com and let me know your goals!

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Holidays in Swarthmore

The lights are in the windows and the garlands embrace the lampposts. The Home for the Holidays horses pulled their sleighs past our office last weekend as the Swarthmore Ballet Theatre performed one sold out performance of The Nutcracker after another. (Pictured above, Anna Si, as the Dew Drop Fairy – check out my Letter to the Editor in this week’s edition of the Swarthmorean newspaper about this magnificent production).

Swarthmoreans seem to be focused on shopping locally this season with treasures at  Harvey Oak Mercantile, Compendium with its selection of warm scarves, tasty treats at the Co-op, books and gifts at the Swarthmore College bookstore, and so many more choices all without setting foot in a mall or warming up the car!

I’ll update this post in the coming days with more pictures of our town celebrating the season! Feel free to email me your favorite Swarthmore holiday pictures and memories to be shared!

(Pictured below: Visitors to The Inn at Swarthmore this Thursday were treated to a view of snow outside and seasonal decorations inside!)

winter-carolers

Carolers serenade the audience in line to see Swarthmore Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker…

winter-cornell

Cornell & Rutgers is slush & ice a week and a half before Hanukkah & Christmas…

winter-decorations

Wondering children tour Dave Augustine’s courtyard holiday light display on Park…

winter-home-for-holidays

On one magical day of the year, Park Ave has horse-drawn carriages again…

winter-tree-sale

Trees are for sale outside the library – proceeds benefit the Swarthmore Fire Station!

winter-ballerina

A young Nutcracker dancer spots the horses & Christmas trees across the street…

winter-welsh

D. Patrick Welsh gets in on the holiday spirit!

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A winter storm on 12/17 turned Swarthmore glassy and magical…

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Welcome home!

The key
I just had to share this lovely picture of T & S, my sleepy but happy clients who survived two settlements in one day! They are holding the key to their beautiful new Wallingford home. I can’t wait to visit!

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A Nostalgic Nutcracker…

Nutcracker

The program cover to Lori Ardis Ballet Company’s beautiful production of The Nutcracker

The hustle bustle of the season is in full swing. Swarthmore’s tree-lined streets are clogged with shoppers. Station wagons covet the parking spots near the fire department’s tree sale. And a thousand foil-wrapped chocolate coins compete with the poinsettias for aisle space at the Co-op. The air is charged with anticipation and a hint of anxiety!

But in one place last weekend, I found the peace and wonder so often lost in the turmoil of the holidays.

Tucked between downtown and the library, the beautiful Arts and Crafts bungalow with the golden dancer on the sign welcomed a small audience to a production of The Nutcracker.

At 7:30pm the lights went down at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre, and Mrs. Ardis came out to tell us all the story of the ballet so that each member of the audience, large and small, would know what was coming next. Then the music began and collectively we held our breath in delight.

The party scene was lovely and quite funny. The maids and family were a joy to watch. Caroline Grogan as Clara’s sister (a good twist on the usual Fritz) was full of pixie-ish energy and Sue Dowling was hysterical as the Admiral’s wife.

Anna Morreale danced Clara with a timeless innocence. Her reaction in the moment when William Hodges’s dapper Drosselmeyer revealed the nutcracker to her was especially sweet.

Eleanor Runiewicz was fantastic as the Heart Doll – it was magical to see her come to life and we rued the moment she turned into a doll once more.

When the party guests were gone the story seemed to fly, with soldiers, rats and plenty of action. In particular Olivia Labows danced the Royal Rat with a fascinating sinuous quality.

Mrs. Ardis and Amber Flynn, who choreographed the ballet together, have a wonderful knack for casting dancers who partner well together, and for playing up the humor and drama in each scene. The pacing of the production made the evening feel short in spite of our being treated to every note of the Tchaikovsky score.

This was my third visit to a production of the Lori Ardis Ballet Company, and my second Nutcracker. The more often I visit, the more I am delighted and astonished at the way the company works together. A dancer may be a lead in one production and a member of the corps in another. The only thing to tie the performances together is the utter commitment with which each dancer on the stage delivers his or her part no matter how large or small.

A new face in the ballet was William McCullough as the Nutcracker prince. I first saw McCollough perform at an SRA production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” a few years ago. He had a relaxed and likable presence as Quince and he was just as charismatic and at home on the stage of SBT in spite of a very demanding role with complicated partnering and multiple lifts. I hope to see more of this young man’s work at SBT.

The second act had so many standout moments. Among them was Rebekah Kuzmick dancing the Arabian with a shy intensity, and accompanied by Ava Dijistelbloem, Noa Dijistelbloem and Michaela Venuto. The Sheperd and Shepherdess dance (complete with sheep and Tony Venuto’s leaping, gamboling Wolf), and Mother Ginger with her winsome children were also wonderfully fun to watch.

Anna Si showed her range once again, dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy with a seemingly effortless elegance, partnered by Donn Guthrie.

Though the performance space is small, there is still a place on the floor near the stage where children are invited to sit for an unobstructed view. My little helpers and I took advantage of that opportunity. Watching this group of incredibly talented dancers bring the timeless story of childhood wonder to life, in an intimate theatre with my children literally in my arms was a sweet privilege for which I will be grateful long after the decorations are put away and we’re back to business as usual.

Did seeing the production make you want to dance too? Swarthmore Ballet Theatre offers professional training to children and adults. Tuition is inexpensive and attendance is practically a rite of passage for the lucky children of our community. Please visit http://swarthmoreballettheatre.com to learn more!

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Popular Plant Sale!

The Swarthmore Horticultural Society held a plant sale in town today! It was heavily attended and we're all grateful to the SHS members for coming out in the heat to share their knowledge!

The Swarthmore Horticultural Society held a plant sale in town today! It was heavily attended and we’re all grateful to the SHS members for coming out in the heat to share their knowledge!

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