BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro School of Dance will present a dazzling rendition of The Nutcracker at Landmark College Theater on Dec. 20, 21, and 22.
They will be joined by professional dancers associated with BSD as alums and colleagues.
Local BSD students will share the stage with professional dancers from around the country, including Michaela Rae Mann, who has toured with the Miami City Ballet; Patrick McGrath, currently with the Trisha Brown Dance Company; world-class circus arts performer Megan Gendell; Madeleine Bonn, formerly with José Mateo Ballet Theatre; and Louisa Mann of Heidi Latsky Dance in New York City.
All proceeds from this beloved production will go to student scholarships at BSD through Company Of Muses.
BSD, in collaboration with Company of Muses - a nonprofit that raises money for BSD students in need - began working on this artistic endeavor in early fall with open auditions.
While many BSD students turned out to audition for the most coveted roles of Fritz, Clara, Dewdrop in Waltz of the Flowers, Columbine, and others, happily, many adults and children new to the studio also turned out to throw their hats in the ring for the wide range of available dance and acting parts.
In the BSD culture, inclusiveness is key and community is paramount, as evidenced by the cast list of new and older dancers spanning ages 6 to 73 - all dancing.
Emphasis on education
Throughout the 43 years of the studio's existence, the emphasis on high-quality dance education has always been a central focus, producing many alums currently and formerly dancing in high places such as Austin Ballet, Heidi Latsky Dance, Charlotte Ballet, New York State Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Marked Dance, and Simantikos Dance Chicago.
The true ingenuity of BSD's now-third owner Bridget Struthers is her ability to maintain high standards of professionalism, especially for career-bound company members, without sacrificing the history of community building that began with its inception in 1976 under the auspices of the school's founder, Kathleen Keller.
On a Saturday afternoon at 22 High St., you're likely to find Kathleen fitting costumes for The Nutcracker's party scene. On Sundays, you may find Jennifer Moyse (studio owner in between Kathleen and Bridget) reconstructing battle scene choreography from a previous Nutcracker production to blend with the current version.
Rachel Hebert, a 2005 BUHS graduate and current ballet instructor and senior company director at BSD, rehearses the Waltz of the Snowflakes with dancers who have earned a spot in the ballet's most difficult ensemble piece.
Alison Mott, former instructor for the BSD-based Windham Regional Career Center program, returns as stage manager.
Anna Bowler, a long-standing student, choreographer, and teacher, has again stepped into the production manager role in addition to choreographing the “Candy Canes” variation.
Louisa Mann, a BSD student from girlhood through high school returns from the New York City dance world to dance a newly choreographed Tea variation. Her mother, Nan Mann, has been in charge of the children's dance and acting parts for 10 years and dances the part of Mother Ginger.
Jamie Gehring, director of the WRCC Program and formerly with Gehring Dancetheater, has choreographed the Coffee variation which will showcase Patrick McGrath of New York City and Sequoyah Stevens-Mills of BSD.
Gehring will also perform in “Waltz of the Snowflakes.” Lighting design by Francesca Bourgault, herself a dancer and owner of Windham Movement Apparel, will illuminate the characters as they battle mice, leap through snow swirls, and waltz as flowers.
Many dance enthusiasts know of the show's original characterization as a failed enterprise.
As Struthers notes, “Tchaikovsky's score was the saving grace of this endeavor, and due to its beauty and diversity, inspired the resurrection of the ballet by a few leading companies, including the San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet, with tweaks and updates to make it one of the most beloved and festive ballets of all time.”
That spirit pervades the BSD's Nutcracker, which has benefited from the support of an enduring and ever-expanding community that includes legions of volunteers. In the course of teaching dance and producing shows, the school also fosters maturity as students develop life skills learning to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Sequoyah Stevens-Mills was the recipient of the Colleen McCloskey-Meyer Memorial Scholarship and the Kathleen Keller Higher Education Scholarship for 2018, both scholarships created and overseen by the Company of Muses.
“I have truly grown up at BSD,” said Stevens-Mills. “I enrolled in my first dance class at the age of 2. The art and discipline of classical ballet has shaped my life in the most positive ways. My first time on stage was when I was 5 and was cast as a reindeer in the BSD and Albany Berkshire Ballet's Nutcracker.
“I have loved having the opportunities to learn and perform various roles in the show throughout the years. I am incredibly grateful to have been awarded two scholarships this year that as a full-time college student have given me the opportunity to continue my dance training.”
Young, beginning students may start out as toys, angels, soldiers, or mice and can grow into solo level roles, testimony to the longevity and commitment of many of BSD's young dancers.
There is much to be savored and enjoyed in this refreshed adaptation of The Nutcracker, including a grandfather clock that strikes twelve at the magic midnight hour, heralding the scurrying of mice and the majesty of a Nutcracker come to life.
The pinnacle, signature piece of Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier will be danced by professionals Mann and McGrath in the centerpiece of a show beloved by audiences of all ages.