Ballroom dancers spice up ‘Nutcracker’

Ballet Western Reserve’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” is a holiday staple, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same every year.

Of course, the ballet school and company in downtown Youngstown gives the ever-popular piece its due respect. But adding fresh elements each year has become part of the tradition. A couple of years ago, it used the narration of then-Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, and included a battle scene between mice and soldiers that looked like a football play.

This year, BWR will draw on the popularity of ballroom dancing when it presents “Nutcracker” on Saturday at Powers Auditorium (for details, see story on Page C10 in this edition of Vibe).

The idea came from BWR Artistic Director Virginia Hartman. She was named to the position in August, so this production of “Nutcracker” is her first time at the helm.

The ballroom dancers will be Travis Manero and Kristin Dobson, who are both instructors at Fred Astaire dance studio in Boardman. Dobson might be familiar to Valley audiences because she was a contestant on the Fox competition show “So You Think You Can Dance” in June. Manero was her dance partner.

Dobson and Manero will dance in the party scene in the first act of “Nutcracker.”

The narrator will be Todd Hancock of Easy Street Productions.

Regional actor James McClellan also has a key role in “Nutcracker.”

Hartman had been an instructor at BWR before she was selected as artistic director. The board sifted through candidates from across the continent for months before choosing her, and that painstaking search “made me feel even more honored [to be selected],” said Hartman.

Her goal is to expand the audience for ballet. That’s where the ballroom dancing idea fits in.

People who come to “Nutcracker” because they are fans of ballroom dancing might discover they also like ballet, she said.

Bavarian Fun Fest returnS to Quaker Steak & Lube

As part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Quaker Steak & Lube, known in its early days as the Old Express Limited, the Bavarian Fun Fest will return to downtown Sharon, Pa., next summer after being on hiatus for 20 years. It will take place Aug. 2-5 on the grounds of Quaker Steak & Lube, 101 Chestnut St.

The Bavarian Fun Fest, once rated the state’s top festival by the Pennsylvania Festival Association, would attract close to 100,000 people. As it once did, the 2012 fest will again celebrate the traditions of Bavaria and central Europe, with everything from German wurst sausages and strudel to ethnic dancers. Dozens of polka bands and oom-pah-pah orchestras will play dance music in the main tent and an outside stage will feature rock and blues.

Festival-goers also will find open-pit beef, barbecued chicken, activities for children and craftsmen and artisans selling their wares.

The Fun Fest will open at 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at noon on Saturday and Sunday, and close at midnight.

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