Dance Alive combines ‘Nutcracker' with chocolate, champagne and tea

Alexey Kuznietsov and Emily Davis, dancers from Dance Alive's performance of "The Nutcracker," pose at the Gainesville Sun studio in Gainesville.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 11:10 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 1:53 p.m.

Tis the season for “The Nutcracker,” and Dance Alive National Ballet's annual Nutcracker Festival combines the holiday favorite with other offerings that gleam like cultural gifts under a community tree. Now in its 47th year as Gainesville's only professional dance company, Dance Alive will perform “The Nutcracker” at the Phillips Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.


‘The Nutcracker'

What: Dance Alive National Ballet's annual production of holiday classic
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Phillips Center, 315 Hull Road
Tickets: $25-$35, $25 seniors, $15 students and children
Info: 392-2787

‘Chocolate and Champagne Holiday Gala'
What: Dancing to music amid the “Nutcracker” set with buffet, chocolate, wine, champagne and silent auction
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Main stage, Phillips Center, 315 Hull Road
Tickets: $100
Info: 371-2986

‘Sugar Plum Tea'
What: Enjoy tea and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy and her court; photos available
When: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Main stage, Phillips Center, 315 Hull Road
Tickets: $15 per person, children must be accompanied by adult
Info: 371-2986

Dance Alive's other events include the annual Chocolate and Champagne Holiday Gala, which offers hors d'oeuvres, champagne and desserts along with dancing amid the Nutcracker set on the Phillips' stage at 8 p.m. Saturday; and Dance Alive's Sugar Plum Tea, which offers a chance for children and their families to meet the show's cast and pose for photographs with the Sugar Plum Fairy, immediately following both of the weekend matinees.

Performances of “The Nutcracker” will have company professionals joined by a throng of student performers in a host of youth roles, from 16 mice and 32 toy soldiers to, of course, the young starlet, Clara.

This year, Clara is double-cast, danced by high school pre-professionals Emily Davis and Nika Sourakov.

Sourakov, who has trained in summer study at prestigious conservatories such as the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C., also danced the role last year.

Davis, who has studied at New York's School of American Ballet, is making her debut as Dance Alive's “Clara” this year. She has previously danced the non-traditional role of Clara in Radio City Music Hall's “Christmas Spectacular” for several seasons, on national tour with the Rockettes.

“Emily is a delightful, charming, very lighthearted dancer with beautiful classical technique,” says Dance Alive Artistic Director Kim Tuttle, who choreographed “Nutcracker.” “She's an outstanding addition to our production and I'm so glad she can be part of it this year.”

Both Davis and Sourakov are students of Pofahl Studios, official school of Dance Alive National Ballet.

Pofahl students perform most of the youth roles, though open auditions are held each September, and “Nutcracker” includes student dancers from studios throughout the area.

It is the adult professional company, however, that sets Dance Alive's holiday ballet apart from the others.

This year, Alexey Kuznetsov performs in the title role.

In the snow scene, Julia Ponomareva dances Snow Queen, while Reka Gyulai and Dance Alive Assistant Director Andre Valladon dance the sweeping Spirits pas de deux.

And where there are “Nutcrackers,” there are always Sugar Plums. The grand pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier is the apex of the ballet's second act.

In this weekend's performances, Luiza Boaventura and crowd-pleaser Rostislav Dzabraev dance the roles on Friday evening; Ponomareva and Romil Bagmanov perform it on Saturday; and Carla Amancio and Fhilipe Teixeira take the stage on Sunday.

This is the first year audience will see Ponomareva performing Sugar Plum in Dance Alive's version.

“She's magnificent,” says Tuttle. “Very tall, very charismatic, pretty stunning. She and Romil make a beautiful couple to watch.”

Other standout performances come from the principal dancers in the roles of Dewdrop and Cavalier, Spanish, Russian and Arabian.

But this year, it is the corps de ballet that particularly excites Tuttle.

“We've already danced nine tour shows last week,” she says, “and I can say that this year's corps is just effervescent. It's outstanding. They're so good, they move beautifully and they give that warmth that everyone wants to see in ‘Nutcracker'.”

And always present onstage is Tchaikovsky's iconic score, which is best appreciated while experienced in the full ballet setting for which it was intended.

“You will see everyone giving 100 percent,” Tuttle says.

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