Christmas is synonymous with so many beloved traditions. From ice skating to visits to Santa, There are so many wonderland ways to celebrate the season, including taking in a production of The Nutcracker.
The beauty of Westchester is that you can experience this holiday magic, without having to venture to New York City. One of the promiment performances to check out is the Westchester’s Ballet Company‘s production of The Nutcracker.
Held at the Westchester County Center for three days (December 13th, 14th and the 15th), the production features a phenomenal cast of young dancers who perform alongside world-class professionals.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching a rehearsal of The Nutcracker at the Logrea Dance Academy. Helmed by Beth-Fritz Logrea and Jean Logrea, the production follows a story ballet, told through dance, acting, and music that features incredible choreography, stunning costumes and incredible special effects–that all happens to be affordable.
To learn more, we chatted with Beth-Fritz Logrea who shared some insights about this exciting production and what’s to come at the Westchester Ballet Company.
Get to Know More about the Westchester Ballet Company
Tell us more about Westchester Ballet Company.
Westchester Ballet Company (“WBC”) has been the premier dance company in Westchester County for almost 70 years. We’re a nonprofit, supported by hundreds of volunteers and the local business community – through ad buys, grants, sponsorships, and donated services.
WBC was founded in 1950 by Iris Merrick, who led the company for 30 years. In 1986, Jean and I were dancing in Austria with the Graz Opernhaus Ballet, but came back to the States to become the artistic directors of the WBC – a role we’ve had and loved for 33 years.
WBC now has two major productions a year: The Nutcracker, which we have performed at the Westchester County Center for the last 23 years – and our Spring Performance, which we present at the Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase.
Also, WBC has provided hundreds of scholarships to talented students over the years to help them continue their dance training. I’m also so proud to say that for almost seven decades, WBC has had an enormous impact on the Westchester community – for our young dancers who perform in our professional productions, as well as our thousands of audience members who support us and have enjoyed our performances.
Tell us about some of your upcoming shows.
The Nutcracker will be performed on December 13th, 14th and 15th at the Westchester County Center. This includes our very special performance for school groups on Friday morning, December 13th.
In the spring, we’ll be performing two ballets at SUNY Purchase on April 18th and 19th.
First on the program is A Glenn Miller Nutcracker. Basically, it’s the music of the Nutcracker performed in 1940s Glenn Miller style – putting a swingy, jazzy spin on this Christmas classic. The piece encompasses three forms of dance – tap, jazz, and ballet – and is so much fun. We are thrilled that Mary Jane Houdina will be both directing and choreographing this piece. Mary Jane has an extensive resume for her work on Broadway, regional theater, and film, as both a dancer and choreographer.
Our second piece for the spring performance will be excerpts from the ballet La Bayadère – which means “Temple Dancer.” For this production, I restaged excerpts of the ballet after the original choreography by Marius Petipa. Set in India, the full ballet tells the story of a temple dancer who is loved by two men – one whom she loves, and the other who she does not. We first performed these excerpts in 2008, and we’re so happy to be able to bring it back for our current dancers to perform – and new audiences to enjoy.
We are so excited to see The Nutcracker! Tell us about this production.
It’s very exciting to be back at the Westchester County Center for our 23rd year! Our production of Nutcracker has grown so much over the years: We now have a cast of more than 100 dancers, beautiful costumes, gorgeous scenery, and lighting – capped off by some really great live theatrical special effects. And, of course, there’s that gorgeous music by Tchaikovsky.
As far as the casting: WBC brings in professional guest dancers for the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier, as well as some other roles. These professionals dance alongside our young dancers – which really is inspiring for them – and an incredible learning experience, as well.
Every year, more than 6,000 people come to Westchester County Center to see WBC’s production of the Nutcracker. And it’s affordably priced, so the entire family can attend and enjoy this magical show.
Also, every year WBC donates Nutcracker tickets to the underserved in our community –as well as the nonprofits that assist them – so they can also experience the joy of live theater.
What can families expect from this version of the Nutcracker?
First of all: It’s a story ballet, told through dance, acting, and music. We work hard to make sure the story is clear – and that all ages can follow it easily. We’ve had children come to the production as young as 3 and 4 years old who are mesmerized by all that is happening on stage. Even in an audience of more than 2,500 people, many of them children, you can hear a pin drop. It’s so gratifying for us all to see.
Also, since Jean and I danced in Europe for many years, the production itself has a European flavor to it, which brings it back to its classical roots.
As I said earlier, with more than 100 dancers, spectacular costumes, scenery, lighting, and music, it’s a wonderful family event – which many of our audience members have now made into a holiday tradition.
How can budding dancers get involved in the Westchester Ballet Company?
Every September, we hold auditions for young dancers to become members of the company, as well as for roles in the Nutcracker. Anyone in Westchester County is welcome to audition, although the majority of our dancers in the production are from the Logrea Dance Academy, the official school of WBC.
If accepted into the company, our dancers can then be part of both the Nutcracker and our Spring Performance. We have five levels of company members, starting as young as 8 years old, up to 18, with the highest level being senior company. Children as young as 6 can audition for the Nutcracker, although not as company members.
Also, it’s important to say that there’s a family-feel among the members of WBC. We’re proud our dancers are so supportive of each other. It’s not unusual to see them break out into spontaneous, enthusiastic applause for each other’s work during rehearsal. Also, each year, we have a buddy system, where every junior member is assigned to a senior member. The senior member takes the younger dancer under his or her wings, to help them through the season with questions, encouragement, and anything that comes up during the year. Our dancers form life-long friendships at WBC – and it all starts with this feeling of family.
Anything else to add?
Jean and I are so happy to have watched the company – and these productions – grow and flourish over the past 33 years. And we are proud that the company reaches over 6,000 people a year with our Nutcracker performances.
So many children have never seen live theater before – and with this production – affordably priced for the family – it’s an experience they won’t forget. The residents of Westchester don’t have to go to NYC to see a professional performance of Nutcracker. It’s right in their own backyard.
Check out The Nutcracker at Westchester County Center, 198 Central Avenue in White Plains. The production is held on December 13th at 10am; Saturday, December 14th at 12:30pm and 4:30pm and Sunday, December 15th at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.westchesterballet.org/tickets
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