Whitehall-Coplay Press

Wednesday, July 8, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONNicole Kujas, in the alternating role of Clara, holds the Nutcracker in Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONNicole Kujas, in the alternating role of Clara, holds the Nutcracker in Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOGuest artists Evelyn Kocak (Sugarplum Fairy) and Michael Breeden (Cavalier), Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOGuest artists Evelyn Kocak (Sugarplum Fairy) and Michael Breeden (Cavalier), Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOGuest artists Evelyn Kocak (Sugarplum Fairy) and Michael Breeden (Cavalier), Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOGuest artists Evelyn Kocak (Sugarplum Fairy) and Michael Breeden (Cavalier), Repertory Dance Theatre of the Lehigh Valley’s “Nutcracker” ballet, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

Repertory Dance Theatre guest artists en pointe in annual ‘Nutcracker’ ballet

Friday, December 6, 2019 by CAMILLE CAPRIGLIONE Special to The Press in Focus

Repertory Dance Theatre (RDT) of the Lehigh Valley will present its production of the beloved holiday ballet, “Nutcracker,” for two performances, 2 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, in the majestic Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The “Nutcracker,” accompanied by music of the award-winning Allentown Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Ronald Demkee, and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts Choir, tells the tale of Clara and her Nutcracker Prince and brings the magic of Christmas to audiences young and old. With beautiful costumes, a growing tree, sword fights and snow maidens, it is sure to be a delight.

Children and adults can mingle with Sugar Plum Fairy and friends at the “Land of The Sweets Party” after the Saturday matinee. The “Nutcracker” cast will sign autographs, pose for photos, and help children with holiday crafts. There will be a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

The “Nutcracker” production is choreographed by RDT Artistic Directors Trinette Singleton and Jennifer Haltzman Tracy. RDT’s professional guest artists for this year’s “Nutdracker” includes Evelyn Kocak and Michael Breeden.

Kocak has danced professionally with New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Staatsballet Berlin and Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

Breeden has danced professionally with the Miami City Ballet and Tom Gold Dance.

Other “Nutcracker” guest artists include RDT alumni Felicia Victoria Sharpe of DanceSpora; RDT alumni Samantha Gabrielle Fruhwirth, a former trainee with American Repertory Ballet, and Jeffrey Salce of Urban Ballet in New York.

RDT’s pre-professional dancers, along with children and adults from the Lehigh Valley, round out a cast of approximately 100 performers.

RDT Executive Director and Co-Artistic Director Jennifer Haltzman Tracy is thrilled to have returning RDT alumni, such as Sharpe, who performs the “Arabian” dance. “It’s the perfect role for her. There’s just so much personality that oozes from her dancing. She’s absolutely exquisite,” Haltzman Tracy says.

“Samantha Fruhwirth is doing a solo in the ‘Chinese’ [dance,] which she choreographed by herself. It’s fabulous. She challenged herself in this role. She’s really very creative. We’re excited.

“She’s also working with one of our high school dancers, Alyssa Cahill. They’re doing a duo for our ‘Trepak’ with other dancers. They complement each other so wonderfully. Its lively and fun.”

Playing the role of the Nutcracker is Jeffrey Salce. He has performed with Urban Ballet Theatre, Dallas Repertory Ballet and The Columbia University Ballet Ensemble.

“He’ll be dancing with [RDT students] Madison Sailor and Nicole Kujas, who alternate in the role of Clara,” says Haltzman Tracy.

Sailor is a Junior at Allentown Central Catholic High School. Kujas is a junior at Emmaus High School.

Playing the Snow Queen and Dew Drop is Lauren Lukachek, a senior at Easton High School.

Eric Feinstein returns as the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer. He has performed with RDT for more than 26 years. Eric is a faculty member at RDT, teaching Talent Identification Program students.

Haltzman Tracy’s daughter, Alexis Haltzman Tracy, is assisting with rehearsals.

RDT purchased elaborate new sets for the “Ballroom” and “Candy Land” scenes.

Collaboration with the local arts community is something that Haltzman Tracy cherishes: “We adore our relationship with the Allentown Band and the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. It’s wonderful to be able to perform again with live music.”

Haltzman Tracy modifies the dances each year to highlight the performers’ skills and abilities:

“The dancers have been growing up with us for so many years, so we’re really trying to give them the opportunity to shine during the ‘Nutcracker.’ They work so hard. Let’s make something that really showcases their strengths.”

Haltzman Tracy describes guest artists, Breedan and Kocak, as gracious performers who enjoy working with RDT’s young dancers:

“We’ve been so blessed. You never know how [the guest artists] are going to feel about coming to a smaller town. They’re so down to earth and excited. It’s wonderful. I’m so excited to have them here. The dancers are going to learn so much from watching them.”

Breeden trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and the School of American Ballet. He’s performed principal roles in ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon and Paul Taylor.

Kocak studied at the School of American Ballet before joining New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 2004. Evelyn joined the Staatsballett Berlin as a member of the corps de ballet and danced there for four seasons.

Haltzman Tracy created RDT with her mother, the late Dolly Haltzman, in 1987. Haltzman Tracy is former Associate Director of the New York City Ballet’s Education Department. She danced professionally with Kansas City Ballet, Los Angeles BallWet, Boston Ballet and New Jersey State Ballet.

Trinette Singleton was principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet for 15 years. She was the first American dancer to appear on the cover of national news magazine Time. Singleton performed in ballets by notable choreographers such as Joffrey, Balanchine and DeMille.

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715