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The Student News Site of Darien High School

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This December, Enter the Land of Sweets!

Learn about the different productions of Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” in Fairfield County
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Christina Galligan
“It’s important to see any production of the Nutcracker because it’s a popular part of winter and holiday culture, and watching ballet is a great way to immerse yourself in the arts,” senior Mackenzie Maier said.

Satin pointe shoes, glittery tutus and a magically growing Christmas tree. As December rolls around, these things and more can be found at dance studios all over Fairfield County. For ballet dancers at Darien High School it is officially the infamous “Nutcracker season.” Here’s what you need to know about the difference productions to support dancers in the school community:

Darien Arts Center

The Darien Arts Center Dance Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker” doesn’t focus on a land of sweets, instead it’s been adapted to be a land of flowers. The new storyline was created by the new dance director, Claire Mazza, who just entered her second year in the position. Mazza has an extensive professional ballet background and has even Co-Founded her own company called East Coast Contemporary Ballet.

In Mazza’s version of The Nutcracker each of the traditional candies is now a flower from the traditional featured countries, for example, Fleurs de Lis from France and Siberian squills from Russia. This adds a deeper meaning to the story as Clara’s uncle, Drosselmeyer, is a botanist who creates this dream world for Clara as a way to cope with his wife’s death. It elevates the story past a sillier fictional world with dancing candy making it entertaining for both adults and children.

The shows take place on December 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th at 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM with an additional show on December 8th at 7:00 PM. They are located in the Darien Arts Center which is a theater underneath the Town Hall building. Tickets are available on the Darien Arts Center website. 

“The fact that it’s in a black box theater really makes it more of an intimate experience for the audience especially for little kids because they can really feel involved in the show and immersed in the magic.” said Mackenzie Maier, a Darien High School senior who will be dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop. 

The show includes many interesting props and costumes, including American Girl Dolls which fall from the ceiling on bungee cords, a cheese cannon, a giant purple tulip and lots of tutus! 

“My favorite part of ‘The Nutcracker’ is the Christmas cheer that it brings to both the audience and the performers.” said Remi Repsher, a Darien High School senior who is dancing Arabian Tulip, Spanish Carnation Lead and Soldier Doll. 

The Darien Arts Center Dance Academy’s production features almost twenty Darien High School students who come from every grade. The shows promise a unique interpretation of the classic storyline while still maintaining the magic of traditional music, choreography and Christmas tree.  

Darien High School students (from left to right)Lulu Deluca ’27, Natalie Roche ’25 and Sabrina Byrnes ’26 dancing at the Darien Arts Center as Fleurs de Lis at a dress rehearsal. (Katie Galligan)

Ballet School of Stamford

The Ballet School of Stamford provides a contemporary Nutcracker focused on cultivating community interaction. Led by directors Marti Etter, Lilia Khanina, and Renee Robinson, the company puts on a Nutcracker suite instead of a full length show. Only the second act is performed, making the show more accessible for a wider audience. Dancer Caoilainn says that this, paired with a more modern choreography style than classical ballet, “makes for a shorter show that is a little less narrative, but still has the magic of ‘The Nutcracker’”.

Beginning two years ago, the Ballet School of Stamford has been dedicated to putting on a production truly for the community with performances with general admission for the public at the Stamford Town Center. This year they will have two non ticketed shows at the Center on December 9th, as well as two ticketed shows at Mill River Park on December 10th. The performances will begin at noon and 3 pm. Tickets for the 10th are available here. An excited Caoilainn says that “we want to give back to the public and have families see the show, if they’re walking around” the park. This production is different from traditional, sit-down in a theater performances, instead transforming into a true community event.

It is a “completely different feeling of performing,” says Caoilainn, because of the “3D audience” with people seated at the front, right, and left of the stage.

Caoilainn’s favorite part of her Nutcracker is “seeing all of my fellow friends and dancers perform new roles”. She says it is “exciting to dance alongside everyone” and that the nontraditional elements of the show are special because they give a “different experience that I wouldn’t usually have.”

For anyone interested in a more modern take of the Nutcracker that allows for community interaction, the Ballet School of Stamford’s production is certainly for you.

Darien High School student Mackenzie Maier ’24 dancing the Sugar Plum solo for the Darien Arts Center production at a dress rehearsal in preparation for the weekend performances. (Katie Galligan)

New England Academy of Dance:

The New England Academy of Dance (NEAD) is a pre-professional ballet school located in New Canaan. They will be performing a traditional version of “The Nutcracker” with the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra at the New Canaan High School auditorium. The performances are December 8th at 7:00 PM and December 9th at 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased from the NEAD website. 

NEAD’s production is directed by the studio’s directors, Frances Ortiz, Ginna Ortiz and Theodore Thomas. All of which have a professional ballet background and have continually promoted the arts in the nearby communities through their creation of the New England Dance Theatre and Thomas Ortiz Dance. The extensive experience of these directors promises high quality dancing with the full original magic of Balanchine’s story.

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About the Contributors
Katie Galligan, Writer
Katie Galligan is a senior who has been writing for Neirad since the Fall of 2022. She enjoys writing about the arts, music, clubs, and current events in the Darien community. She spends her free time as a ballet dancer at the Darien Arts Center and the Editor-in-Chief of the Current Literary Magazine. She is interested in pursing international relations and journalism in the future.
Katie Cavolo, Journalist and Newscaster
Katie Cavolo is a senior at Darien High School who began writing for Neirad in 2022. You can find her dancing ballet as a member of the Darien Arts Center Senior Company, leading DHS's Current Literary Magazine as Co Editor in Chief, or hanging out with her friends and family. Katie loves writing, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Her favorite bands are The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Her favorite childhood movies are The Parent Trap and Ella Enchanted.

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