Waiting in the Wings

Dance schools prepared for Nutcracker performances

The Nutcracker ballet is a holiday staple, and Evansville’s two dance schools, The School of Ballet Indiana and Children’s Center for Dance Education, are planning for this season’s performances.

Any Tri-State dancer can audition, and rehearsals start in September for performances staged at the beginning of December. The tale’s familiarity makes rehearsing and putting on a two-act, nearly two-hour ballet easier, but each year’s performances are a little different.

“We’ve got it down to a fine art, but it’s never the same,” says Deena Laska-Lewis, who founded CCDE in 1995.

“I would need more time to prepare if it wasn’t (mostly) the same every year,” says Kerri Lambert, artistic director of Ballet Indiana — a nonprofit facilitating performances — and SBI. “A lot of hard work happens before dancers rehearse.”

SBI, owned by Daniéle Greenawalt — who bought and rebranded the dance studio in 2018 — and BI work together to put on each year’s production with the addition of the Ballet Indiana Symphony Orchestra under conductor Henry Cheng.

Robert Hughes (left) and Emily Craver rehearse at the Children’s Center for Dance Education on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, in Evansville, Ind.

SBI’s production features dancers as young as three and professionals Danielle Troyano of San Diego, California, performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Alex McCleery of New York City dancing as Cavalier. There are 100 performers, plus parents, volunteers, and a 50-person orchestra. Scholarships make sure more dancers can participate, and Ballet Indiana works with the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana’s Community Outreach Program to achieve that goal.

CCDE tours The Children’s Nutcracker throughout the Tri-State annually. This year’s production includes 40 dancers from CCDE, plus dancers from each stop. Evansville performances incorporate students from Highland Elementary School, Lincoln School, and the Joshua Academy charter school.

This year, Laska-Lewis also worked with board member Krysti Hughes, who is a certified orientation and mobility specialist at the Evansville Association for the Blind, and Easterseals Rehabilitation Center on a sensory-friendly show that expands “The Nutcracker” through the senses. Children will be able to touch pieces of costumes, and peppermints will be distributed for smell and taste.

“We have a job to make joy,” Laska-Lewis emphasizes. “We never stop performing.”

“We have a great time,” Lambert says.

Jasper Arts Center
951 College Ave.
Jasper, Indiana Dec. 2, 3 p.m.

Thralls Opera House
612 Church St.
New Harmony, Indiana Dec. 3, 3 p.m.

Old National Events Plaza
715 Locust St.
Dec. 8, 4 p.m. (free sensory-friendly performance)
Dec. 8, 7 p.m.
Dec. 9, 2 p.m.

Preston Fine Arts Center
2660 S. Green St. Henderson, Kentucky Dec. 10, 3 p.m.

Victory Theatre
600 Main St.
Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Dec. 10, 2 p.m.

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