Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet Prepares for Annual Nutcracker Ballet

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Kirsten Evans

Article Contributed by
Cortney Linnecke

At a time when most people are still binge-eating leftover Halloween candy and stubbornly refusing to part ways with wrinkled jack-o-lanterns, the students of the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet (CRYB) are already seeing visions of sugar plum fairies.

In fact, CRYB dancers have been in the holiday spirit since mid-September, when rehearsals first began for The Nutcracker. This year’s production will be held Friday, December 9 at 7:30p.m. and Saturday, December 10 at 2:30p.m. at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. The performance will mark a Jamestown tradition that has endured for more than two decades.

Kirsten Evans
Kirsten Evans

As in past years, the cast and crew will be mainly composed of CRYB students and community member volunteers. The lead role of Clara will be danced by Cecelia Johnson, a CRYB student and sixth grader at Washington Middle School. Two professional guest artists will also be featured from Festival Ballet Providence: Kirsten Evans will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Alex Lantz will dance her Cavalier.

Monika Alch, Artistic Director of the CRYB, believes that the school’s production is crucial for fostering an arts culture in Jamestown. With the addition of professional ballet dancers, she says, the performance is truly elevated to a level that is rare for the area.

Cecelia Johnson
Cecelia Johnson

“There is nothing else like this around here at this time of year,” Alch said. “You have to drive hours to be able to see classic ballet – you can go to Toronto, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, but that’s about it. So we really enjoy it, the audience enjoys it, and of course the students enjoy it.”

The Nutcracker, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and set to music by Tchaikovsky, tells the tale of a young girl who dreams of adventure with a young prince, a rat king, and of course, a sugar plum fairy. While the story may be classic, Alch admits that she must tweak and adapt it each year to keep the ballet exciting for audience members and customized to the abilities of the students in the production.

“A couple of years ago, I changed the beginning with Drosselmeyer; I’ve changed the Arabian before,” Alch said. “Every year I add something, I change something, because we always have a new group of students. I have a couple of things I want to do this year, but I will not tell you because it’s a secret – you have to come to the performance to see!”

Between the costume fittings, the choreography modifications, and the rehearsals, Alch and her cast and crew have a lot to accomplish in just a few short months. While she admits that it can be stressful at times, she also says that after all these years, she still looks forward to The Nutcracker each season.

Alex Lantz
Alex Lantz

“It can be stressful because there’s always new people and new things to do,” Alch said. “But we have a long summer break, we do the summer school and the [Chautauqua Ballet Program], and by this time of year I’m kind of looking forward to doing The Nutcracker again. When it comes down to it, we all just really enjoy doing it.”

Tickets for this year’s production of The Nutcracker can be reserved by calling the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts Box Office at 716-484-7070. A special patron package is also available for an additional cost. Sponsors that have helped make this year’s ballet possible include Saxton, Kocur & Associates, LLP; M&T Bank, Brigiotta’s Farmland, Diana Anton and Hope’s Windows, Inc.

To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.

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Cortney Linnecke
Cortney Linnecke is a freelance writer and sports enthusiast from Stow, NY. As a high school student, Cortney approached athletics as if it were a buffet. She sampled as many sports as her school would allow and ended up lettering in most of them, including softball, track, boys' golf and her game of choice, soccer. At SUNY Geneseo, Cortney traded soccer cleats for ice skates on the women's club hockey team. When not busy practicing slap shots, Cortney earned bachelor degrees in English and international relations, and made time to write. Her work has been featured in SUNY Geneseo’s newspaper The Lamron, The Chautauquan Daily and Geneseo's academic research journal, The Proceedings of GREAT Day. She is delighted to become a contributing writer at the Jamestown Gazette.