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Dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy

Ballet Western Reserve promises fun for ‘Nutcracker’

Submitted photo Graduating senior dancers at Ballet Western Reserve will dance the principal roles in this year’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The senior dancers are, kneeling from left, Faith Fisher, Eileen Beck and Nadia Simms; standing, Reagan Nevels, Amanda Hvizdos, Allison Riddle, Gabriella Howe and Kennedy Pickard.

Fun is the guiding principle for this year’s production of “The Nutcracker” by Ballet Western Reserve.

Executive Director Katie Merrill said there are some magical touches and modern dance elements while remaining true to its classical ballet roots.

“We asked a lot of our girls last year (as part of its 60th anniversary season), and they all outperformed,” Merrill said. “One thing we want to make sure we do is they’re having fun. Yes, we put on beautiful productions, but we want to make sure, from (ages) 4 to 18, when they walk out the back door at DeYor, they have a smile on their face because they did the best they could to the best of their abilities, and we’ve taught them to shine and gave them every opportunity to have a fun and happy ‘Nutcracker.'”

It also marks a return to normalcy after two years of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. BWR filmed its “Nutcracker” in 2020 and screened it outdoors. Last year, the dancers wore masks during rehearsals and backstage and shed them for the actual performance.

“This year, we are 100 percent mask-free,” Merrill said.

The production, which will be staged 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Powers Auditorium in downtown Youngstown, features about 65 performers on stage with most of the principal roles divided among BWR eight graduating senior dancers — Eileen Beck, Faith Fisher, Gabriella Howe, Amanda Hvizdos, Reagan Nevels, Kennedy Pickard, Allison Riddle and Nadia Simms.

The rest of the cast includes David Ardale, Clara Barrett, Adrienne Booth, Nina Boyer, Liliana Butch, Addison Campbell, Vivian Cox, Lucia D’Amico, Ella Dill, Tessa Dolan, Ella Economos, Giuliana Falasca, Katarina Falasca, Amanda Fetty, Madelyn Fetty, Diana Gates, Julia Gates, Amia Gatta, Sofia Hinkle, Jeffrey Howe, Brynna Jones, Maya Jones, Stella Kasten, Addie Kelley, Olivia Kusky, Emerson Lavery, Anna Lloyd,

Mira Martin, Alexis McCrea, Lila McCrea, Ella McGee, Medure, Isla Merrick, Camille Miner, Brooklynn Moran, Lyla Morrison, Paige Nevels, Emily Pasquale, Josephine Pasquale, Julian Penella, Alexandra Popovich, Delana Ragan, Elizabeth Rock, John Rock, Brooklyn Ruark, Aurelia Sewickley, Revah Sharma, Ethan Slick, Tayah Smith, Rachel Theis, Kaylin Treese, Maria Tsikouris, Maria Vamvakris, Isabella Vargas, Vivian Welch-Young, Maria Wilson, Riley Wilson and Mary Zavoral.

For the first time in three decades, the dancers will be accompanied by a 35-piece ensemble of Youngstown Symphony Orchestra musicians. Merrill said it was a commitment the ballet company wanted to make after working with the orchestra on a production of “Giselle” last spring.

“It was amazing, and we had a great time,” she said. “The Youngstown Symphony Society and Stambaugh management worked with us to create a purchase agreement for the symphony that worked well with our numbers and allowed us to do that. … We have made a very conscious effort as a staff and a board to make sure our students are dancing to live music for as many performances we as we can.”

Merrill said it was fascinating to watch even their youngest dancers learn to adapt to the subtle differences between the prerecorded tracks used in rehearsals and the live music they had to dance to for an audience.

For “The Nutcracker,” the musicians will be in the seldom-used orchestra pit at Powers.

“We’re putting a 35-piece orchestra in the pit,” Merrill said. “It will be interesting to see what the vibrations will do to the dancers. That will be a new experience for them as well.”

If you go …

WHAT: Ballet Western Reserve — “The Nutcracker”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $19 to $29 and are available at the DeYor Performing Arts Center box office, online at deyorpac.org and by calling 330-259-9651.

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