With the classic Peter Tchaikovsky music and Nancy Turano’s choreography, the New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble (NJDTE) will proudly present “The Nutcracker” at Montclair State University’s Memorial Auditorium for its 48th anniversary season.
“Not a lot of theaters in this area can support our technical needs of ‘The Nutcracker,'” said Turano, the NJDTE artistic director and former resident of Montclair. “As a hub for forward-thinking arts initiatives, Montclair State is a perfect match for NJDTE and our mission of cultivating contemporary, progressive dance programming and training right here in New Jersey.”
Turano added that the production requires over 40 crew members and volunteers working backstage to assist with over 600 costumes, props and three acts of scenery.
Rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” started in the beginning of September and the production features 55 NJDTE dancers ranging from ages 9-18 and an additional 12 guest artists from New York, New Jersey and France.
One of the young dancers in the cast is 12-year-old Samantha Grace Wolf, who will perform the starring role of Clara.
“My favorite part of playing Clara is to inspire others and to be a role model for the younger dancers in the company,” Wolf said. “I am excited to be part of the Act I party scene, which is my favorite as I need to both act and learn to perform new ballet techniques.”
Since she was 5 years old, Wolf would watch productions of “The Nutcracker” with her Girl Scout troop each year. She began dancing at 2 years old at Susie Karlik’s Dance Sensation. In 2015, she wanted to explore preprofessional training which led her to NJDTE. Wolf received the mayor award in Union, New Jersey on Nov. 28.
Turano also said the NJDTE is a preprofessional dance company as the faculty trains the students in a professional environment to prepare them for their future and professional employment. NJDTE dancers audition and work with internationally renowned teachers and choreographers from New Jersey, New York and abroad.
NJDTE dancer Donald Grennon expressed his excitement in preparing for his role as the Mouse King.
“Being in ‘The Nutcracker’ provides you with a terrific feeling of camaraderie with other cast members, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment as you see all of your hard work paying off in the final rehearsals,” Grennon said.
“The Nutcracker” evolved from the original E.T.A. Hoffmann story and takes place in the mid-1800s in Germany. The NJDTE classic production is one hour and 45 minutes long and consists of two acts. Act 1 is where Clara exists in reality at a holiday party and Act 2 consists of her travels around a surrealistic world called the Kingdom of the Sweets where Clara meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and sweets from many countries.
An extraordinary group of international dance artists, including Lyvan Esteban Verdicia of Ballet Hispanico who received the Princess Grace Award and Marie-Lorène Fichaux of Lyon Opera and formerly of Paris Opera Ballet and Royal Ballet of London, will join the ensemble for three captivating performances.
Fichaux will dance the classic role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mikhail Ilyin of American Ballet Theatre will appear as her Cavalier. Also joining the cast are celebrated dancers Chris Bloom of Ballet Hispanico and former New Jersey Ballet prima ballerina Rosemary Sabovick-Bleich.
Ticket sales for “The Nutcracker” are available at www.njdte.tix.com with the cost of $35 for adults and $25 for children, students and seniors. Two performances will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Another performance will take place on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.
There will also be a “student rush” where tickets are $15 on the day of the performances if students present a valid Montclair State ID.