‘Nutcracker’ dreams: Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley presents longest-running classic
The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet of the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley presents the longest-running “Nutcracker” ballet in the Lehigh Valley, now in its 51st year (1968-2019).
The beloved and whimsical production, with a splendid score by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, is a holiday delight.
With a cast of more than 100 professional, pre-professional and student performers, performances are 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 14, and 2 p.m. Dec. 15, Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.
The 2019 BGLV “Nutcracker” artists include Devon Teuscher, playing the role of Sugar Plum Fairy, and Alexandre Hammoudi as her Cavalier. Both dancers are with American Ballet Theatre.
BGLV Artistic Director Karen Kroninger Knerr says, “We’re very excited to be bringing them in.”
Teuscher became a soloist at American Ballet Theatre in 2014 and a principal dancer in 2017. Her repertoire includes “Firebird,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake.”
Hammoudi has been a soloist at American Ballet Theatre since 2012. His roles have included those in the ballets “Coppelia,” “Don Quixote,” “Giselle” and “Othello.”
The BGLV “Nutcracker” performances are accompanied by a 48-piece orchestra, Southside Sinfonietta, under the music direction of Eugene Albulescu of Lehigh University. Southside Sinfonietta is an orchestra of faculty, professional musicians and students from the Lehigh Valley.
“This is our sixth year with live music,” says Kroninger Knerr.
More than 80 area students will sing during the “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” and will sing holiday songs in the Zoellner Arts Center lobby prior to each performance.
BGLV “Nutcracker” guest artist Tevin Johnson dances the Candy Cane lead and Harlequin.
“He performed in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ the role of Puck, and performed in last year’s ‘Nutcracker,’ as well,” says Kroninger Knerr. “We are excited to have him back.”
Stephaen Hood, soloist with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, will perform Snow King and the Arabian Lead.
The role of Clara is double-cast and is played by Isabella Massa, 7th grade, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Catharine D’Agostini, 6th grade, Regina Academy of St. John the Baptist.
“They’re both new to the role of Clara,” says Kroninger Knerr.
Playing the Snow Queen is Emelia Belet, 12th grade, Belvidere High School. Dew Drop will be performed by Olivia Lovell, 11th grade, Parkland High School.
“There are definitely changes to the choreography this year,” Kroninger Knerr says. “As always, it depends on the technical ability of the students. We like to challenge them onstage and if we can add something new to the production, that’s always wonderful for everyone.”
There will be new choreography for the Spanish dance and the Candy Cane lead. The Chinese dance will have six leads, with new costumes. “We introduced a Chinese dragon that weaves through [the dance],” says Kroninger Knerr.
Christopher Yoder will play the role of Herr Drosselmeyer.
Introduced last year is a stunning new backdrop in the Act I Party Scene. There are new costumes, as of last year, for the entire corps for “Snow” and “Waltz of the Flowers.”
“We perform for nearly 4,000 local students,” says Kroninger Knerr. These performances are presented in conjunction with, but separately from, the “Nutcracker” performances for the public.
“We’re very honored. For most of them, it’s their first introduction to live theater. And for them to experience the ballet with the orchestra, they’re riveted, on the edge of their seats, as they’re watching the show. I love to sit in the audience and watch the students react to the ballet.
“During the public shows, we’re bringing in 250 students from The Boys and Girls Clubs,” Kroninger Knerr notes.
Guests from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton and Northeast Ministries are attending with their tickets prices underwritten by sponsor, the Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo Law Firm.
The tale of young Clara and her Nutcracker Prince and their dream-like journey has enthralled audiences for more than 100 years.
“I think that people know the music,” says Kroninger Knerr. “They hear it and they may not even know it’s from the ‘Nutcracker.’ It’s just this warm, wonderful holiday tradition for some people.
“You get the music and the dancers and a beautiful story of this little girl going through a wonderful dream. It appeals to everyone.
“Generation after generation we see coming back to enjoy the ballet.”
Tickets: Zoellner Arts Center box office, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem; firstname.lastname@example.org; zoellnerartscenter.org; 610-7LU-ARTS; 610-758-2787, ext. 0.