Visions of sugar plums: Greater Salem’s ‘Nutcracker’ has strong Marblehead influence

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Need your “Nutcracker” fix but don’t want to trek into Boston?

The nonprofit Greater Salem Ballet Company has your answer.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, at noon and then again at 4 p.m., the company of more than 110 young dancers–including dozens from Marblehead–will take the stage at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium for their ninth annual performances of the holiday classic.

Mouse King Grace Turner and Baby Mouse Adeline Desgrosseilliers are two of the Marblehead dancers who will be performing in the Greater Salem Ballet Company’s ‘The Nutcracker’ Saturday, Dec. 10 at Lynn Auditorium. COURTESY PHOTO

The company is also led by three Marblehead women: Katie Machado, Seanna Chmura and Susan Nee.

The three had danced for Chmura’s grandmother, Helen Deane, a local legend and longtime owner-operator of the Deane School of Dance in Salem.

Before she settled on the North Shore, Deane and her two sisters had been Vaudeville dancers.

“She lived a life,” Machado said. “She was awesome.”

Chmura eventually took over her grandmother’s dance school and about 15 years ago merged it with the studio Nee had established in Swampscott to form A Performing Arts Academy on Swampscott Road in Salem.

Over the years, the instructors had a hand in any number of local productions of “The Nutcracker” but about a decade ago decided to start their own version, one that would be “accessible to anybody,” Machado explained.

The next challenge was to find a place to perform it, and in the Lynn Auditorium, they found a great partner, Machado said.

There is no bad seat in the house, and balcony seats are available for as little as $20, Machado noted. In addition, the company donates a number of tickets to local nursing homes and other nonprofit organizations, like Girls Inc.

The goal is to reward the young dancers for their months of hard work by allowing them to look out from the stage and see a sea of people enjoying themselves as much as they are, Machado said.

That was not the case the first year, Machado said, as auditorium staff draped a curtain around the back rows to make the crowd look less sparse.

But as the years have gone by, the Greater Salem Ballet Company’s ability to put people in the seats has grown.

Lexi Lappin will perform as Spanish Coffee in ‘The Nutcracker’ at Lynn Auditorium Dec. 10. COURTESY PHOTO

The young dancers in the company began rehearsing in September and have been at it every weekend since, according to Machado.

The Greater Salem Ballet Company’s production of “The Nutcracker” has the trappings audience members will expect, like a growing Christmas tree and couches that move.

“We try to give the illusion of magic,” Machado said.

The company is also fronted by two talented professional dancers from Festival Ballet Providence, Eugenia Zinovieva and Mamuka Kikalishvili, who perform in the lead roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, respectively.

“They are truly exceptional,” Machado said.

More or less, the choreography is faithful to George Balanchine’s reworked staging of “The Nutcracker,” which the New York City Ballet first performed in 1954, “with a little bit of a twist,” Machado said.

Attendees will see some back flips and back handsprings, and also some tumbling by some of the company’s youngest performers, the Peppermints, which is always a crowd pleaser, according to Machado.

“But we’re still keeping it very classic,” she said.

There are always tickets available at the door, Machado said, but those who would like to reserve their seats ahead of time can purchase them through the Lynn Auditorium’s website.

Attendees who are of age will not even have to miss out on their holiday cheer, as a cash bar will offer beer, wine and a festive specialty cocktail, along with snacks and other concessions.

There are many, like Machado, who do not need to be convinced that “The Nutcracker” is a great way to kick off the holiday season.

“You don’t have to be a lover of ballet,” Machado said. “It’s like going to the Boston Pops. You don’t have to be a classical music fan.”

Machado is particularly grateful that the COVID-19 pandemic has loosened its grip, allowing audiences to just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

“It’s nice to get together and celebrate the kids,” she said.

Local stars

Marblehead performers in the Greater Salem Ballet Company’s “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 10, Lynn Auditorium) include:

  • Eloise Blaisdell
  • Grace Brennan
  • Audrey Chmura
  • Coralie Ciaccio
  • Kaylei Corbett
  • June Crawford
  • Hannah Demakes
  • Coco Desgrosseilliers
  • Eleanor Finkle
  • Maia Fiore
  • Elle J. Foley
  • Charlotte Hodgkinson
  • Olivia Hodgkinson
  • Lily Jaffe
  • Stella Kapeleris
  • Alexis Lappin
  • Sophia Lees
  • Lucy McDonald
  • Mary Kate McDonald
  • Margot McGlynn
  • Sydney Olson
  • Serafina Park
  • Hailey Turkanis
  • Grace Turner
  • Rose Walters

(Click photos to enlarge and review gallery.)

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