Sarah Rennie –
The first performance of The Nutcracker by students of the École de Danse Neva Shelton took place in 1990. Now, 28 years later, the holiday magic of The Nutcracker ballet will once again be staged locally with two performances scheduled for Grove Hall in Huntingdon as well as the Salle Albert-Dumouchel in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.
The treasured story of Clara and her sweeping journey through a fantasy world filled with fairies, a handsome prince and an army of mice, is a favourite holiday tradition for many across the Valley, as a second generation of dancers are now taking part in the production.
Since its earliest presentation of The Nutcracker, the École de Danse Neva Shelton has expanded to offer classes in four location across the region. The school now includes five teachers: Camille DesRochers in Ormstown, Sara Mooijekind in Huntingdon, Marie-Michèle Lalonde in Valleyfield and Alex Vaudrin-Demers in both Valleyfield and St-Anicet. Neva works with the older students, and at least five of her college-age dancers are also helping to rehearse the youngest performers. “A former student, Sébastien Lemieux is returning to dance the cavalier and the partner for the pas de deux. We also found another delightful young man from Valleyfield, Samuel Genest, to dance as the Prince,” says Neva Shelton, who notes there are around 110 dancers participating in the show over four performances.
This year marks the second time The Nutcracker will be staged at Grove Hall, which has become “a popular venue for the Huntingdon students and also many Valley residents who are less familiar with Valleyfield,” says Shelton. “It is also a very different experience for both dancers and audience being in such proximity to each other,” she adds of the intimate venue, where the dancers at times are literally within arms reach of the audience.
Costume designer Richard Hansen has returned to the show and has been “whipping the volunteer parents into a sewing frenzy with some fabulous changes to former costumes,” says Shelton, noting how Chantal Poirier along with her daughter Kelly as well as Coralie Latendresse and her mother, Maithee, have taken charge of makeup. “I am ever thankful for the wonderful volunteers who all pitch in to make this a memorable experience for so many young dancers,” concludes Shelton.
The Nutcracker will be performed at Grove Hall on Saturday, December 15, and Sunday, December 16, with both shows starting at 7 pm. The Nutcracker will also be performed at the Salle Albert-Dumouchel in Valleyfield on Friday, December 28, at both 2 pm and 8 pm. Tickets for either venue can be purchased in advance online at either grovehall.ca or at valspec.com.