November 2016

The Nutcracker: Show goes on in spite of storm

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: Rob Kaufman

Welcome Home.

Hilton Head Dance School welcomed its company dancers back to their studios, their second home, the day after residents were allowed back on the island. They returned to find that not only were the studios undamaged by the many trees that fell in the Palmetto Bay Road area, but that the thousands of handmade costumes and headpieces that are stored there were safe as well. Backdrops and props, stored in Bluffton, were also safe and dry. Artistic directors of the Hilton Head Dance Theatre, Karena Brock-Carlyle and John Carlyle, had waited with bated breath to hear the news about what damage Hurricane Matthew had done. The vast inventory of items needed to put on the production had been created by hand over the Dance Theatre’s 31-year history.

“The cost of redoing the costumes and headpieces would have been astronomical, and there never would have been enough time to get them all done,” Brock-Carlyle said. “But it never occurred to us not to perform,” said John Carlyle. “We couldn’t let the community down and we couldn’t let the dancers down.

This year’s Nutcracker will take on special meaning as we celebrate our commitment to dance and the dedication of our dancers.” So, in spite of losing almost two weeks of rehearsal and preparation time, the show will go on.

For the dancers who will perhaps dance in their last Hilton Head Dance Theatre production of The Nutcracker, the production takes on even greater significance. Preparing to dance the Grande Pas are Marina Karis and guest artist Samuel Chester, as well as Katie Maurer and Jamal Edwards. Sharing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy will be Trayna Adams, Olivia Plenzler and Kyla Smith. Mary Bennett McLean and Katie Maurer will share the role of the Dewdrop Fairy. In addition, over 200 local dancers will charm as baby mice, candy canes, toy soldiers and party children.

Adding another layer of sentiment to the production is the fact that this year’s production will be dedicated to the memory of photographer Bill Littell, who passed away after a yearlong battle with cancer on September 17. Littell and his wife Chris generously donated their time and talent to the dance theatre for almost 30 years. The walls of the Hilton Head Dance School studios are lined with publicity photos and headshots that Littell took over the years, and many Lowcountry families cherish the photos that he took of their children, smiling and posing in their elaborate Nutcracker costumes. Bill Littell will be missed.

Although our community will still be dealing with recovery efforts, Hilton Head Dance Theatre is ready to play its part in welcoming the holiday season with its thirty-first annual production of The Nutcracker! 

Hilton Head Dance Theatre will present The Nutcracker at the Seahawk Cultural Center on the campus of Hilton Head Island High School, 70 Wilborn Road. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on November 11, 12, 18 and 19, and 2:30 p.m. on November 13t and 20. Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for seniors (60 and over) and $15 for children 18 and under. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call (843 )842-3262.

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