Many girls dream of being prima ballerinas, but not many actually get to share the stage with their idols! This weekend, 105 Maui dancers will perform together with the pros when Ballet Hawaii brings its celebrated production of "The Nutcracker" to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
The lead roles will be enacted by five stars of the dance world: Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette, principal dancers with the New York City Ballet, are the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier; Stella Abrera, principal with American Ballet Theatre, is the Snow Queen and Arabian; Timour Bourtasenkov, principal from the Carolina Ballet, is the Snow King and Trepak; and John Selya, Broadway star, is the Toy Soldier and Arabian.
As well-known as they are, these dancers don't have "diva" attitudes, according to Pamela Taylor-Tongg, artistic director of Ballet Hawaii on Oahu.
Ballet Hawaii / PETER YEE photo
The “Nutcracker’s” opening-act “Party Scene” features dancers of all ages. Many of the youngsters will advance to featured roles in future years in this favorite ballet for the holiday season.
"I always try and make certain they are good role models for the younger dancers," she says. "Dancing on the same stage with people who are not only good artists but good people raises (the younger dancers') sights and makes them realize that with a lot of hard work, maybe they could be there too!"
Some Maui dancers are already on their way, rising steadily through the ranks to earn coveted roles in "The Nutcracker." This year, Abrianna Markham will dance the part of Marie, Heather Kelsey is the Prince, Taylor Soma (who was Marie last time) and Derek Sakakura (of 'Ulalena) are Lead Spanish; Jessica Patterson, Jade Direnfeld and Isabelle Moes are Dolls; and Sakakura, Aly Cardinalli and Isabelle Jones are Trepak. Bill Schnitzer is Herr Drosselmeyer.
It's an exceptional cast, says Barry Brinker Jones, who is in charge of rehearsing the Maui dancers for the production. The hardworking ballet mistress lost her voice during the long hours, but she says the cast is so good she was able to conduct rehearsal anyway.
"They are so well-behaved and enthusiastic, they know what to do!" she says. "I have kids who started four years ago as a Lamb, a Mouse, a Soldier and now a Party Girl it's wonderful to see the joy in their faces as they've come up the ranks."
As Taylor-Tongg explains, "Every part teaches them a little different aspect of performance - the Soldier teaches them about dancing in a group and marching in line; the Mice teach creativity; the Angels are beautiful and ethereal - each part is designed to strengthen them technically for the next part. Some dancers work all year long just to reach that next level."
The principal dancers rehearse separately from the rest of the cast, which can make coordination a little tricky. But there's something about the timeless magic of "The Nutcracker" that always brings it together in just a few whirlwind days.
Even after 25 years with Ballet Hawaii, and 10 years before that as a soloist with the Atlanta Ballet, Taylor-Tongg says "Nutcracker" has never gotten old for her.
Maybe it's Tchaikovsky's marvelous score; maybe it's the sumptuous sets and costumes; maybe it's the wondrous story itself. "It's a tradition that families remember from their younger years," Taylor-Tongg says. "It's part of the Christmas festivities."
* "The Nutcracker" plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $50, $40 and $30. Applicable fees are added to tickets for all MACC shows, available at the MACC box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
A cast of over 80 student and adult performers from Seabury Hall's dance, drama and music programs take the stage this weekend for Seabury's 19th annual Christmas Party/Performing Arts Concert. David Ward directs the popular showcase of talent, which includes revivals of popular pieces choreographed by Ward and by Andr Morissette, ballet pieces by Vanessa Cerrito, and excerpts from the recent Middle School musical, "Once Upon a Mattress." The Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble will premiere a new hula choreographed by kumu hula Napua Greig-Makua as Seabury's entry in the 10th National High School Dance Festival in March.
n Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. (party beginning at 7) Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $17 (includes dessert and beverage); available by calling 573-1257. To raise funds for the dance festival, the elite dancers will give a special matinee performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, also featuring guest performers Eric Gilliom and Elementos, featuring Indio and Makana. Tickets are $15; available by phone at 573-1257.
Maui OnStage has teamed up with Maui Academy of Performing Arts for a holiday production of "Annie" at the Historic Iao Theater. The family-friendly musical opened on Broadway in 1977 and proceeded to win seven Tony awards, including Best Musical. Set in the Depression era, it's full of familiar songs like "It's a Hard Knock Life," "Tomorrow" and "Fully Dressed." The Maui production stars Tyler Charbonneau as Annie, and Robert E. Wills as Oliver Warbucks, with direction by Brian Swasey. (See review on the next page.)
n Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 13. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors 65 and better, $15 bargain matinee price on Sundays. There will be two additional matinees at 3 p.m. this Saturday and next, offering $5 student tickets with a donation of two canned food items for Maui Food Bank; $15 for other seats. Tickets are available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku, at Lava Java in Kihei, online at www.mauionstage.com, or by phone at 242-6969.
Vegas comes to Maui, as resident crooner Brian Evans launches his "Maui Celebrity Series at The Hard Rock Caf" in Lahaina on Friday, Dec. 18. The monthly show features big-name stars in an intimate venue. First up is William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk himself), with subsequent performances by Roseanne Barr in January, and Joan Rivers in February. Evans, who has frequently opened for these entertainers on the Mainland, will open the acts. For tickets or more information, call the Hard Rock at 667-7400, or visit www.groovetickets.com.
Auditions are tonight for the upcoming Maui OnStage production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," directed by Alexis Dascoulias. Based on Harper Lee's classic novel, the play offers roles for actors of all ages. Rehearsals begin Jan. 9, and the show will run March 5 to 21 at the Historic Iao Theater.Those auditioning are asked to prepare a one- to two-minute monologue and bring a headshot and resume. For an appointment or more information, call 242-8680.
Maui Slam! celebrates 17th-century English poet and author John Milton with a birthday slam in his honor tonight at Casanova in Makawao. The event also highlights awareness of the invaluable Makawao Public Library in the face of budget cuts. Poets 21 and older are invited to present an original, three-minute work in competition for a $100 cash prize. This month's featured guest artist is Sara McGrew. DJs SID and Joey the Wrench provide music, with visual alchemy by Doug DeBoer. The slam begins at 9:30 p.m., with a $5 cover. For more information, visit www.mauislam.com.