Ballet Academy and Studio in Bordentown, New Jersey
Nutcracker Notes — November 16 through November 18 @ Open Arts Stage

Nutcracker Notes — November 16 through November 18 @ Open Arts Stage

CNJBT's very own Nathalie Ann Dowsey, hard at work to prepare for her role as Sugar Plum Fairy.
CNJBT’s very own Nathalie Ann Dowsey, hard at work to prepare for her role as Sugar Plum Fairy.

So all our months of preparation are coming to their culmination, and CNJBT’s production of Tchaikovsky’s classic “Nutcracker” is just a few days away. I can’t express how excited I am. I just love to dive right into it when I produce a show.

For this particular show, I cast it according to class and level. The younger students will be doing certain dances as the corps de ballet to the soloists, with whom I started rehearsing our back in August. The dances in September and thoroughly known by the beginning of October — we’ve just been running and cleaning them up ever since. The kids are ready.

Also, my soloists have been with me anywhere from 3 to 6 hours per week taking technique class and rehearsing their parts. The soloist work I specifically tailored to the individuals to emphasize each student’s best features as a dancer. While some of the dances were sampled from previous “Nutcracker” productions, I choreographed the majority of CNJBT’s little Fall production. A few of the dances I sampled and added my own elements. The pas de deux and the coda will be the original, though. I like to keep certain aspects sacred.

But really, for my own part, I’m always learning right along with our dancers. Often, you see something in your head a certain way, but then you put it on a dancer and it’s not what you expect. As a director, what I’ve learned the most is that ballet is a production in the truest sense of the word, and you need all hands on deck to manufacture results.

I’m very happy with the level of professionalism from my older students in particular, because I’ve seen a real evolution in their technique. They’ve all improved by leaps and bounds (pun intended), and they’re now starting to understand what it means to be an artist.

Nathalie, of course, is our Sugar Plum Fairy; she’s really the star of the show. Not to mention, Erin Ryan continues to blow me away. I gave her a very challenging part as the Dewdrop Fairy, and she’s really made it her own. She’s just a completely different dancer than when I first met her.

Kathrine and Reagan Narwid are two of the hardest working kids I’ve seen in a long time. Kathrine is so smart and is super quick to pick up on concepts. She’s like my right hand when I choreograph. Reagan could barely get through a ballet class when she first came to me, and now she’s really starting to shine as a dancer. She’s become a tough kid keeping up with the older soloists.

Out of all of them, though, I feel compelled to mention Shirya Varma. She just started ballet, but she’s already dancing with the Intermediate level and as a soloist. She has a gift of grace that I’ve never seen before. I’ve had mothers tell me that they can’t keep their eyes of her when she dances. It’s true — she’s simply mesmerizing.

And of course, the little ones have really worked hard, too! I just love them all. We’ve really had a lot of success by focusing on being together and moving as one unit. Our emphasis has been on clean technique and being present on stage. And fortunately, there are no flakes on my stage — they’ve support each other and help each other. It is classical ballet but I am a showman.

As far as what the audience for my shows can expect from the performance, my goal is to give them what they want. Big jumps, lots of turns, bright costumes, big smiles, funny moments; all in about an hour in an intimate setting. Everyone is going to have a great experience. You can rest assured CNJBT’s “Nutcracker” will be really unique, particularly because you’ll be able see a wide variety of skill levels on stage at the same time.

Fortunately, we already had a good foundation to work from. In CNJBT’s Spring gala recital, we danced excepts from “Swan Lake,” and it really laid the groundwork for this production. The very first show is always a challenge, and my girls got through it with flying colors. They’re becoming very detail oriented, which is what one needs to be as a ballet dancer.

The process itself, of course, has been a challenge! There’s been some laughter and some tough moments as well. We couldn’t have done any of this without the parents, who have been so wonderful with their help and time. Because of their support, the show will be a success, and I know the kids will be very proud of themselves after they present this show.

And stay tuned for “Giselle.” I told the girls about it, and the next day they went and watched PA Ballet do it. They were hooked! Our goal is to reconstruct the 2nd Act with them in the Spring, so we are certainly planning to continue our performances.

CNJBT’s Production of “The Nutcracker” will be this weekend; Friday, November 16 and Saturday, November 17 at 7:30 PM, and Sunday, November 18 at 2 PM. You can get tickets by emailing me directly at alisha.cardenas(at) or by calling the studio at (609) 424-3192

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