By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
If, like me, you having been living under a rock somewhere and were totally unaware of this gem of a production that has been happening every Christmas season for 10 years, I’d like to enlighten you a bit about this truly community-supported production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” It runs for only four performances, November 29-December 1 at West Potomac High School, Alexandria, so you might want to make plans right now to see it. I’ll give you ticket and performance information at the end of this article.
First of all, just because I’ve said it’s a “community” production, please don’t automatically think that it might in any way be less interesting to see than a “professional” production. I just enjoyed a hilarious, fun, but serious rehearsal of about 50 children, teens, and young adults. You must see these tiny ballerinas (youngest about 3), being put through their paces, preening and loving every second of being on that vast stage with their friends while dancing to the marvelous music of Tchaikovsky. It’s simply delightful!
Now, a bit about how all this got going. The Alexandria Community Nutcracker began in 2008 in partnership with the West Potomac Dance Academy and a team of experienced directors, Gennifer Defilippo, Courtney Betzel and Adrienne Taylor, who wanted to bring together youth dancers of all ages and skill levels to perform Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece. And they wanted to perform it not only with help from the entire community making “hands-on” contributions, but they planned for something unique to happen each year. Soooo… this year the music in Act Two will showcase traditional ballet dances, as well as jazz, contemporary, hip hop, Irish dancing, tap and gymnastics. My mind is reeling!
Also, in honor of this year’s 10th Anniversary, a professional New York City dancer/choreographer, Ebone Simone Johnson, lent her talents for the hip hop Russian number. She came to Alexandria this past August to choreograph and teach the dancers, dance captains and directors that number. Jennifer DeFilippo, one of the directors, told me that Ms. Johnson’s husband is a DJ and he made a professional mix-tape of the traditional Russian “Nutcracker” music and modern music which will be played during that part of the show. In addition, the West Potomac Orchestra (I’ve heard them and they are spectacular!) will perform live music during the “Waltz of the Flowers” and there will be live guitar accompaniment during the Reed Flutes number. Guest choreographers like Brittany Hill, a Los Angeles professional dancer, and Paul McGill, a dancer from New York, are standard each year with this production.
Courtney Betzel, one of the dance directors said, “Looking back at the last ten years, it’s become so much more than a dance production. It’s part of the fabric of our community, with families, friends, colleagues, school and scouting groups making it an annual tradition to support their children, siblings, neighbors, peers, classmates and students performing on stage, while also getting into the spirit of the season.” Boom! Five big Zebra stripes up!
Note: Auditions are held annually each June, and are open to preschool, elementary, junior high and high school dancers who are enrolled in an approved dance or gymnastics program in the local area.
Ticket and Performance Information: “The Nutcracker” has four public performances Thursday, November 29 at 5:30 pm, Friday, November 30 at 6:30 pm, and on Saturday, December 1 at 2:30 and 6:30 pm at West Potomac High School, 6500 Quander Road, Alexandria, VA. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: http://ww.alexandrianutcracker.com