November 2007

A Holiday Trip to Fairyland

Author: Anne Feldman

The Nutcracker Ballet graces the Arts Center stage

Strains of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Overture fill the air, the curtain rises and the magic of The Nutcracker begins. The dancers, so lovely, poised and graceful, are breathtaking in this beautiful piece that holds our hearts, year after year.

With unparalleled grace, beauty and most of all passion, John Carlyle and Karena Brock-Carlyle’s Hilton Head Dance Theatre’s production is a cherished holiday tradition. From the magnificent party scene to the final pas de deux, this well-loved ballet passes in a whirl of excitement.

Sophisticated sets, gorgeous costumes, superb choreography and talented and committed dancers bring John and Karena’s artistic vision to stage at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, November 10-18.

In the tradition of the well-loved E. T. A. Hoffman tale, it is Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house, a grand house with the most beautiful tree imaginable. The festivities underway, as guests arrive, the children, Marie and Fritz playfully dance a welcome to all their friends. Marie is charming played by Katie Crowe, Jacqueline Houle, and Cady Roberts. The role of Fritz is played by Brantley Herrington, Carter Julfeth, and Julia Nahman.

The party over, sweet Marie dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and his battle against the Mouse King (Carlyle), and together they journey to the Land of Sweets. They are welcomed by dancing flowers and dew drops (Jillian Caron, Lindsay Ogden and Justine Hale) snowflakes and the Snow Queen (shared by Ruthie Fuller and Theresa Pearman) and her Snow King (guest artist, Sam Pergande of Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet), along with the Sugarplum Fairy (shared by Ogden and Hale) and her Cavalier (guest artist, Peter Kozak, Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet), among others.

From the adorable smallest snowflake to the clever little mice, English crackers, brave soldiers and candy canes, all the dancers bring this story to life, and each year, look forward to the next role with great anticipation. With sixteen beautiful dancers in the ballet corps, shimmering in exquisite costumes, it’s easy to see the admiration they have for one another. “The younger dancers look up to the older girls, and we love to work with them and pass on the knowledge we learned from the dancers who came before us,” said dancer Lindsay Ogden, adding, “There is so much action in the first act, it is really fun, and then we love the dancing in the second act.”

The Nutcracker is more than a ballet; it is a rite of passage, where deep friendships take form. Dancers who have graduated often come back to work with new dancers, rehearsing, encouraging and continuing the traditions of the Hilton Head Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker.

The Land of Snow shimmers with snow crystals atop tiaras and delicate, airy headpieces and exquisite handmade tutus, meticulously sewn and constructed by dedicated ballet families and HHDT members, who attended a tutu master class and headpiece workshop. The new pieces blend seamlessly with the company’s exceptional costuming, constructed in the tradition of Karena’s mother, costume designer Sallie Brock. The Snow Queen tutus, worn by Fuller and Pearman, are so beautiful in this winter wonderland, and all the girls in the company are magical in splendid crystal headpieces.

The Arabian dance is mesmerizing, under the spell of Caron, Pearman, and partner Pergande. The artistic influence of high caliber guest artists from well-known ballet companies contributes to the strength and beauty of this ballet. “It is demanding to work with professional male dancers, but our students are well-prepared to partner and very capable of complex choreography,” said Carlyle.

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful pas de deux. Marie awakens from her dream and finds herself at home with her beloved Nutcracker. For many, the ballet brings back favorite memories of the past; families come every year dressed in their holiday best, and it is the best part of the season, with joyous music and magical dancing. “The Nutcracker ballet enchants audiences, and the dream quality aspect takes us to fairyland. I wish we could keep it all year round,” said Brock.

“The ballet is simply incredible and rivals that of productions seen in New York and other cities,” said Kelly Ogden, Hilton Head Dance Theatre president. It requires a lot of effort to form a dancer. The Carlyles have created a talented company of dancers and trained them consistently from very young ages, with all the knowledge, the love and the passion they bring to their dance company. We are very privileged to have this caliber of dance in our community.

Young students of ballet learn their roles in the upcoming productionof the Hilton Head Dance Theatre’s “The Nutcracker”

Karena Brock-Carlyle, former Principal Dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, danced with male stars Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, performing throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Canada, and at the White House for two presidents.
John Carlyle attended New York’s Harkness School of Ballet on full scholarship and danced with City Center Dance Theatre, The Tampa Ballet, The Savannah Ballet and as guest artist with Columbia City Ballet and Lexington Ballet.

Karena and John Carlyle, with their son Timothy, have made Hilton Head Island their home. They founded the Hilton Head Dance School in 1985 with seventeen students. The school has grown to more than 250 students and now has a permanent home with the recent purchase of the HHDT building and studio. The Carlyles vision is to develop into one cohesive dance center. The Hilton Head Dance Theater has truly become one of our most cherished treasures, a shining jewel in the crown of Hilton Head.

Celebrate the season with Hilton Head Dance Theatre’s 23rd production of The Nutcracker. A favorite of holiday traditions, The Nutcracker enchants audiences November 10-18 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. For ticket information, call The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina Box Office at (843) 842-ARTS or the Hilton Head Dance School at (843) 785-5477.

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