'The Story of the Nutcracker'

Graphic illustration by Dan Talsky, daniel.talsky@journaltimes.com. Photo of Vincent Paradiso by Paul Kolnick; other photos courtesy of Studio of Classical Dance Arts.

Dan Talsky

A new venue, professional guest artists and ... SNOW!

The Studio of Classical Dance Arts’ production of “The Story of The Nutcracker” will be performed this year in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s new arts complex — the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities (aka “The Rita”). And its new performance space is just one of several changes and additions to the annual show that will make this year’s production the most exciting and ambitious yet, according to its directors, Linda Bennett and Marc Darling.

Emily Cardea, of the Orlando Ballet II, and Vincent Paradiso, of the New York City Ballet, will join the Studio’s cast of 90 student dancers in telling “The Story of the Nutcracker.” The pair, who are currently based in New York, will dance the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Featuring professional guest artists is something that Marc Darling said he and Bennett have wanted to do since they began presenting “The Story of the Nutcracker” in Racine County seven years ago. The teachers and directors — both of whom danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet before opening their school on Chicory Road — remember their own experiences in having guest artists visit their dance schools when they were students.

“It is one of the opportunities we really wanted to share with our students,” said Bennett, noting that being able to work with professionals is not only inspiring for young dancers, but helps make their goals seem more accessible. “As a dancer, you learn so much just from watching other dancers.”

Darling said that he and Bennett, who also served as guest artists during their performing careers, are thrilled to have the New York-based dancers come to Racine. They hope to be able to bring in guest artists for the “Nutcracker” production from now on, he said.

“Our eventual dream is to have some of our students, who go on to become professional dancers, come back to perform in our Nutcracker,” Darling said.

With Cardea and Paradiso dancing the full Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux (see more information below), this year’s “Story of the Nutcracker” will be presented in two acts, rather than the Studio’s previous one-act version. And, when the dancing Snowflakes have their time in the spotlight, they will be accompanied — for the first time in the Studio’s history — by falling snow.

Making it snow on stage is a challenge that Darling said he is having fun figuring out. “The little kid in me loves it,” he said.

The snowfall is one of many facets of the annual holiday production that Darling and Bennett handle themselves. In addition to choreographing and teaching the dances, the directors do everything from creating costumes and scenery to making sure all of the equipment arrives at the theater.

Their passion for both their students and this ballet, set to the music of Tchaikovsky, is what drives them to do so every year. It is also important to the Studio’s directors that the “Nutcracker” experience be available to all students and, therefore, there is no charge for participation.

The entire production is funded solely by ticket sales, and staffed behind the scenes by a handful of volunteers, Bennett said. It has also become a holiday season tradition for many families throughout the community, and is appropriate for all ages, she said.

Advance purchase tickets are recommended, as last year’s Sunday afternoon show sold out.


If You Go

WHAT: “The Story of the Nutcracker” by the Studio of Classical Dance Arts

WHEN: 1:30 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.

WHERE: Main Stage theater in “The Rita” at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, 900 Wood Road, Somers.

COST: Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 12 and younger. They can be purchased at the Studio, 2745 Chicory Road, or at the theater door, subject to availability.

INFO: Go to www.classicaldancearts.com or call (262) 633-4450.


The guest artists

Emily Cardea

Originally from New York city, Emily Cardea studied at the School of American Ballet, the French Academie of Ballet and the Orlando Ballet School. As a child, she performed with the American Ballet Theater, the New York City Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera, as well as having dancing roles in the motion picture “Uptown Girls” and the television series “Royal Pains.” Cardea has since performed featured roles in “Who Cares?,” “Valse Fantasie” and “The Nutcracker,” as well as excerpts from “Romeo & Juliet,” “Swan Lake” and “Giselle.” In 2011, she competed in the Youth America Grand Prix, finishing in the top 12 nationally. Cardea was a member of the Orlando Ballet II from 2010 to 2012.

Vincent Paradiso

Vincent Paradiso began his ballet training in 1996 with the School of American Ballet — the official school of the New York City Ballet. The Ardsley, N.Y., native earned an apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet in 2003 and was invited to join the company as a corps de ballet member the following year. He has danced in numerous George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins ballets, including “The Nutcracker,” “Symphony in Three Movements,” “Donizetti Variations,” “Glass Pieces” and “West Side Story.” He has also originated roles in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon, Mauro Bigonzetti and Peter Martins.


What’s a pas de deux?

This French term names a dance for two performers that is a characteristic part of classical ballet. A pas de deux includes an adagio, or slow dance, by the ballerina and her partner; solo variations by the male dancer and then the ballerina; and a coda, or conclusion, with both partners dancing together to display their virtuosity.

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