Prominent Long Island ballet company Eglevsky Ballet is set to bring holiday cheer to the masses with its annual production of The Nutcracker on Saturday, Dec. 16, and Sunday, Dec. 17.
The performance will feature choreography by the company’s executive artistic director, Maurice Brandon Curry, and starring Unity Phelan, soloist at New York City Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Jared Angle, principal dancer at New York City Ballet as her Cavalier, while celebrated film and stage actor Chris Comfort will portray Clara’s lovable and mysterious godfather, Drosselmeyer.
Under the direction of maestro David Bernard, the Massapequa Philharmonic Orchestra will play Tschiakovsky’s magnificent score. The performances will take place on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Long Island University in Brookville.
Curry has staged this production of The Nutcracker (the third in his career) as a traditional one, albeit with unique dimensions added throughout.
“Eglevsky Ballet has long been known for its approach to this treasured story,” said Curry. “Our production delves deeper into the characters of Clara and Drosselmeyer and also blends our incredibly talented academy students seamlessly with our professional dancers. Also, the production is highly theatrical while keeping the dancing as the true star of the ballet.”
Phelan was born in Princeton, NJ, and began her dance training at the age of five at the Princeton Ballet School, where her teachers included Douglas Martin, Maria Youskevitch, and Mary Barton. During the summers of 2008 and 2009, Phelan attended the summer sessions at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, and enrolled as a full-time student in fall of 2009. She became an apprentice with NYCB in December 2012 and joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet in November 2013. In February 2017, Phelan was promoted to soloist. She was featured on the cover of the January 2016 issue of Dance Magazine as one of their “25 to Watch” dance artists.
Angle was born in Altoona, PA, where he began his early dance training at age six at the Allegheny Ballet Academy. He entered the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, in the fall of 1996. In 1997, Angle received the Rudolf Nureyev Scholarship to continue his training at SAB for the 1997-98 school year. Angle became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in March 1998 and joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet in July 1998. He was promoted to the rank of soloist in February 2001. On Nov. 11, 2005, Angle was promoted to principal dancer following a performance during a Company visit to Denmark for the reopening of the Tivoli Concert Hall.
Additionally, Curry has welcomed back to the stage several Eglevsky Ballet Alumni to participate in the ballet’s well-known party scene as the parents and guests of the Stahlbaums, the fictional family who are the party’s hosts.
“It is delightful to meet so many people who have fond memories of their years dancing in The Nutcracker at Eglevsky Ballet. I am happy they were all delighted when I extended the offer and are having some wonderful rehearsals,” said Curry.
One of these alumni is Jennifer Sauter, who as a young child and teenager appeared in many of the Eglevsky Ballet productions of this ballet. This year, Sauter returns to play the role of Mrs. Stahlbaum, Clara’s mother.
“I began dancing with Eglevsky Ballet at the age of six and made many great friends over the years,” said Sauter. “I performed in Eglevsky’s production of The Nutcracker for five years as a child and loved every moment of it. I am honored to have been asked to perform with Eglevsky Ballet again this year as Frau Stahlbaum and am excited to share this holiday tradition with everyone.”
This year, “Clara” is being portrayed by 16-year old Yumiko Yanagihara of Syosset. Yanagihara is a junior at Syosset High School. This new production, which premiered last year, has a number of different elements chosen to dispense with the pas de deux usually performed by the Snow Queen and Snow King. Instead, it will be danced by Yanagihara as Clara and the Nutcracker Prince, portrayed by Eglevsky Ballet company dancer Greg DeSantis.
“By doing this, the connection between the two characters is more developed and also gives the opportunity for Clara’s dream to have a more poignant and personal effect on our audiences,” said Curry.