By Sara Hilton, as seen in the winter 2017-2018 issue of the Homefront Magazine.
The Nutcracker is a ballet of childhood wonder. It is a story of a mysterious godfather who swoops into a holiday gathering to bring remarkable gifts to the children. It is a story of a beloved toy coming to life. It is a story where a terrifying mouse king can be defeated by a child’s thrown slipper. And, like all things childhood, there is a great deal of time dedicated to sweets.
“The story and music are so classic. Everyone can relate,” said Annamia Rumley, owner of Tecumseh Dance Workshop. “The Nutcracker is the story of dreaming and of wonder and magic. It draws you in.” Rumley also serves as the creative director of Tecumseh Center for the Arts’ production of the Nutcracker Ballet. Every other year, for nearly 20 years, young dancers have gathered on the TCA stage to perform the Nutcracker's story of dreaming and wonder and magic. While the wonder of the production most certainly lies within the music, story, and dancing, there is also holiday wonder in this production’s unusual collaboration between studios. Young dancers come from as close as Tecumseh and from as far as Jackson to audition for roles in front of a panel of local studio owners. “Normally, dance studios don't mingle like this,” said Rumley. “But we have a different mindset. We have this wonderful environment where all the teachers and dancers from all these different studios gather to work together, and we work together really well. We all have a lot of respect for each other.”
Over the years, the TCA Nutcracker cast has ranged from 65 to 115 children who rehearse for six hours every Sunday throughout the fall, splitting their rehearsal time between the studios at Tecumseh Dance Workshop and Tecumseh's Dance Steps Studios. The production team works hard to give as many dancers as possible the opportunity to experience being part of a performance. This year, 80 dancers will take part in the TCA production. “I think every production of this holiday classic is special because each year we have new and talented dancers in each role,” said TCA Nutcracker producer Aimee Hennings-Roe. “The Nutcracker is only produced at the TCA every other year, so the dancers get an opportunity to grow and learn and move up to more challenging roles.”
The TCA Nutcracker has also become an opportunity for dancers from different areas and studios to come together and see that dance is not only a way to connect with an audience, but it is also a way to connect with each other. “It is really fun as teachers to watch so many kids from so many places grow as dancers,” said Rumley. “But more than anything, the experience is just so good for the kids. So many friendships are made between the dancers. It give kids an opportunity to dance in a production, to dance on stage, but it also shows them that dance belongs to everybody, not just their own studio. Dance is a universal language, not an individual language.” Childhood wonder is also a universal language, and no matter one’s age, sitting in the audience for this magical event can remind us of the dreamy possibilities of childhood, where mice are slain with slippers, toys turn into princes, and entire lands are made of sweets.
The TCA Production includes dancers from the following studios:
Tecumseh Dance Workshop, Tecumseh
Dance Steps Studio, Tecumseh and Saline
Infusion Performing Arts, Tecumseh
Dance With Heart Studio, Manchester and Adrian
Encore Dance Studio, Adrian
Jon’s Dance Connection, Brooklyn
MST Dance Center, Brooklym
Nutcracker Lead Roles
Annamia Rumley/Artistic Director ... Tecumseh Dance Workshop
Lauri Stoianowski and Kristen Meadows ... Dance Steps Studio
Ashley Palmer and Riley Carrier ... Encore Dance Studio
Anya Noveskey ... Dance with Heart Studios.
Performance Days and Times
December 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 pm. A matinee is scheduled for December 9 at 2 pm.
400 N. Maumee Street, Tecumseh
The Insult to Ballet SIDEBAR
The Nutcracker Ballet debuted on December 18, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The theatre was sold out, and the anticipation was great. People had come to experience a new ballet with music scored by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Marius Petipa, the well-known duo behind Swan Lake. However, it is said that The Nutcracker was not created with the same zeal. Tchaikovsky reportedly only took the commission so he could also work on another ballet that premiered the same night and then became very unhappy when strict creative perimeters were put on his work. It is said that he was just as unhappy with the final product.
The first reviews from that opening December night were less than glowing:
“To repeat, The Nutcracker cannot pretend to be a ballet, but constitutes ‘spectacle’, which can be given with success on the summer stages of our small theaters. For our first-class ballet the production of such ‘spectacles’ is an insult.”
“God grant that similar failed experiments do not happen often.”
“Such a great composer should not have taken upon himself such a trifle and such nonsense as the story of this ballet.”
Failure. That was the first word on the Nutcracker Ballet. However, one of the great lessons of life is to realize that the first word isn't always the last word. One hundred and twenty five years after that dismal opening night, The Nutcracker has grown to become one of the most beloved and well-known ballets in the world.
The original Nutcracker story was written in 1816 by E.T.A. Hoffmann. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was a dark and scary fairy tale, not quite suitable for children. Later, Alexander Dumas (author of the Three Musketeers) altered the story to make it lighter and more child-friendly. Tchaikovsky used Dumas' version to score the ballet.
According to Nutcracker lore, Tchaikovsky wrote The Nutcracker's Grand Pas Duex on a wager. It is told that Tchaikovsky's friend wagered that the famous composer could not write a melody based on the notes of a scale in an octave in sequence. Tchaikovsky accepted the wager and the result was the famous music written for the Sugar Plum Fairy as she dances with her prin
Behind the scenes of Tecumseh Center for the Arts.