By Barbara Trainin Blank @traininblank
Jennifer Bivin is an old hat at “The Nutcracker.”
The high-school senior, who has been studying at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre for four years, is this year dancing her fifth full-length “Nutcracker” and her second “Nutcracker Suite,” – the under-45-minute version for younger audiences.
She danced the romantic role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in “Nutcracker Suite” last year, and this year she will for the first time perform the role in the full-length production.
“Being able to dance it is very special to me,” she said, “as every ‘Nutcracker’ I’ve looked up to whoever was performing it. I hope I can serve as someone who brings inspiration to younger dancers, similarly to how the Sugar Plum Fairy brings magic and wonder into Clara’s world.”
Clara is the girl whose nutcracker becomes a prince in the beloved Tchaikovsky holiday ballet.
“I hope to improve upon my performance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in last year’s ‘Nutcracker Suite,’ … by dancing with [a] cleaner and stronger technique.” Bivin said.
“Nutcracker” productions give dancers of many ages an opportunity to perform.
Anna Lim, 12, has been studying at MBT for six years. This year she’s dancing in both “The Nutcracker” and “Nutcracker Suite” as part of the Russian Corps and a Demi Flower.
“I’ve never been part of the Russian Corps before, but I was a Demi Flower two years ago,” said Lim. “This time the role is in pointe shows, so it’s a little bit different.”
“The hardest thing about the Russian is keeping up my energy, because the dance is very tiring; at the end of it I am usually out of breath,” Lim said. “It’s also very fun because the dance is very exciting and toward the end, the audience starts clapping to the music.”
One of the very young dancers is Willie Lukens, 7, who has been studying at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre for a year.
Lukens, who said he “loves performing,” will be a sheep in “The Nutcracker.”
Seeing MBT’s full-length version two years ago inspired him to take classes there.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of MBT’s “Nutcracker.” It introduced “Nutcracker Suite” last year for children “who can’t sit through such a long ballet,” said artistic director Elizabeth Odell Catlett.
It’s a long day for some of the dancers, though, who have to perform three shows in one day – two of the full-length and one of the abbreviated ballet.
“The Suite incorporates pieces of the full-length ballet, such as of the party scene in Act I, the transition to Act II, and of the Kingdom of the Sweets, with a few of the dances – Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Marzipan,” she explained.
Tickets to the “Suite” sold out quickly, so this year MBT moved the venue from its black box theater to the Parilla arts center of Montgomery College.
Usually, local celebrities and dignitaries perform the role of Mother Ginger, whose many children emerge from under her skirt. In honor of the 30th anniversary, alumni of the school will fill that part – including one who had danced in MBT’s first production of “Nutcracker.”
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, which has about 400 students, has opened a second location – in Clarksburg – in addition to its home base in Gaithersburg.
“The Nutcracker” in any guise seems to have a magical effect on children (and adults), even if it’s repeated every year.
“Willie had a sleepover with his grandparents, and they let him watch a video of ‘The Nutcracker’ – twice,” his father, Gideon Lukens said.
“Nutcracker Suite” takes place Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. while the full-length “Nutcracker” is on Dec. 1, Dec. 2, Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at 1 and 5 p.m. at Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, located at 51 Manakee Street, Rockville. For more information, visit www.mbtdance.org/performances/nutcracker/.