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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONRepertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley, “Nutcracker,” 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONRepertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley, “Nutcracker,” 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOElena Miettinen CONTRIBUTED PHOTOElena Miettinen
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOSean Stewart CONTRIBUTED PHOTOSean Stewart

RDT’s ‘Nutcracker’ grows with each passing season

Friday, December 7, 2018 by CAMILLE CAPRIGLIONE Special to The Press in Focus

The beloved holiday ballet, “Nutcracker,” will be performed by Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley, 2 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9, Miller Symphony Hall, accompanied by the award-winning Allentown Symphony Orchestra under direction of Ronald Demkee, and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Choir, conducted by David Macbeth.

Audiences delight in the classic tale of young Clara, who receives a magical wooden nutcracker, travels to the “Land of Sweets,” meets the Sugar Plum Fairy and watches the Prince’s battle with the Mouse King.

RDT has performed the “Nutcracker” since 1987. Choreographed by RDT Artistic Directors Trinette Singleton and Jennifer Haltzman Tracy, the holiday favorite presents superb dancing, beautiful costumes, a magical growing Christmas tree, sword fights and a snow scene.

RDT alumni dancers Felicia Victoria Cruz-Sharpe, who is with DanceSpora) and Cainan Weber, a student at the School of American Ballet and 2016 Easton International Ballet Competition winner, return as guest artists to perform the Arabian and Trepak dances.

Professional guest artists include Elena Miettinen and Sean Stewart of the American Ballet Theatre. “They sound like the most delightful people,” says Haltzman Tracy of Miettinen and Stewart. “True professionals who want to help the arts community.”

Daniel Mayo, of Ballet X and who has performed the Arabian dance for RDT, will play the role of the Nutcracker Prince, with Nicole Kujas, of Macungie, and Lauren Lukachek, of Easton, alternating the role of Clara. RDT’s pre-professional dancers, children and adults from the community round out the cast.

Haltzman Tracy says a hallmark quality of RDT’s “Nutcracker” is how the dancers progress over the years. “It’s incredible watching where these kids go, that this is a springboard for them.”

“Nutcracker” provides RDT’s young dancers and aspiring ballerinas an opportunity to dance with professionals. Haltzman Tracy says her students rise to the occasion with professionalism and poise.

“RDT is a place for them to learn, and to dance in front of their hometown, and learn from professional guest artists and even from people who aren’t professionals. How exciting [for them] to say, ‘Wow! That could be me.’”

The 32nd annual RDT “Nutcracker” cast includes 60 dancers ages 7-14, 20 high school dancers and five students from DeSales University. Trinette Singleton, formerly with the Joffrey Ballet, is on the faculty of DeSales Department of Performing and Fine Arts.

The “Party Scene” performers enjoy coming back year after year. Eric Feinstein returns as Herr Drosselmeyer. The Chinese divertissement added two male dancers this year. “We tweak things to make the dancers shine,” says Haltzman Tracy. There will be two school performances for area students.

Haltzman Tracy’s father, Jay Haltzman, assists with stage lighting for the performances and has manned the spotlight for years.

“I think it [‘Nutcracker’] has the whole holiday spirit,” says Haltzman Tracy. “It’s a lovely story. It has become a tradition. People go year after year, even though they’ve seen it.

“Different people have different reasons why they like it so much. The music is very pretty. Kids like the battle scene and the boom of the canon. It has something for everything.

“We’re looking forward to a beautiful show.”

There’s a “Land of the Sweets Party” after Saturday’s matinee, where children and adults can mingle and get autographs and photos with Sugar Plum Fairy and other characters. A separate ticket is required. There will also be a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

“Let’s Go Nutz,” now in its third year, 7 p.m. Dec. 8, is a variety show with jazz and tap dancing, featuring six professional musicians, RDT members and guest artists. Performances by community organizations include Tap Ties and the Community Music School Saxophone Ensemble.

“Let’s Go Nutz” is a showcase of various dance forms. Skits poke fun at “Nutcracker” scenes and there will even be a Grinch. It’s sure to provide an entertaining evening downtown. “It’s a great date night,” says Haltzman Tracy.

Repertory Dance Theatre, “The Nutcracker,” 2 p.m. Dec. 8, 9, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown. “Land of the Sweets Party,” 4 p.m. Dec 8, the Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall. “Let’s Go Nutz,” 7 p.m. Dec 8, Miller Symphony Hall. Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; allentownsymphony.org; 610-432-6715