By Ed Albanesi
When you become an elder, as my just-turned 16-year-old daughter likes to call me, 10 years is really just a blink of an eye.
Despite this, it is somewhat hard for me to believe that it’s been a decade since the inaugural St. Augustine Ballet Nutcracker took to the stage at Flagler College’s Lewis Auditorium.
Barack Obama was finishing up his first year as president. Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators were reigning collegiate college football champions. And my aforementioned daughter was developing her sassiness as she meandered her way through 1st grade.
The 10th Annual St. Augustine Ballet Nutcracker will return to Lewis Auditorium with four performances on Dec. 22-23, 2018 (1:30 and 7 p.m.). Six dancers who appeared in that inaugural Nutcracker will be returning to the stage for the 10th consecutive year. They include Joe and Jane Boles (party parents), Tommy Bledsoe (Clara’s father), and Luis Abella (ballet director, party parent and mouse king).
And two girls (now college-aged young ladies) who began dancing in these productions while in grade school, Kiera Pheffer and Kali Lee, will keep their streak alive at 10. Pretty amazing.
For only the second time in 10 years, a student will be dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Rosa Bledsoe danced the role in 2011 and Grace Karger, who attends Abella’s School of Dance and is home schooled, will be demonstrating her considerable skills in that role this year.
Jolynne Waldner, a freshman at Flagler Palm Coast High School, will dance in the role of Clara. Jake Karger, a student at St. Augustine Public Montessori School, will dance in the Nutcracker/Prince role.
Julio Conception is a guest artist who will perform as the Cavalier. Born and raised in Matanzas, Cuba, he joined the National Ballet of Cuba in 2008. He danced with the Cincinnati Ballet in 2013. He joined the Oklahoma City Ballet in 2015 and performed in Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Giselle. He was a guest artist in The Great Gatsby with Ballet Palm Beach.
While my daughter dances in her eighth consecutive St. Augustine Ballet Nutcracker, my wife, Carol, will keep pace by operating the Nutcracker Boutique before, during and after all performances of this year’s Ballet.
She will be selling flowers and the newest Nutcracker ornaments and figures. All net proceeds from her sales go directly to support the St. Augustine Ballet.
Carol will be partnering with Swillerbees to provide coffee, donuts and other treats for Ballet guests. A generous portion of proceeds from these sales also supports the Ballet.
If you have seen this local performance of the Nutcracker before, you likely have many reasons to want to see it once again. But if you really need a reason, Ballet Director Luis Abella has one for you.
“This year we have the most high quality dancers we have ever had,” said Abella “And the clarity in which we tell the story will be the best it has ever been.”
Still not sold? Check out this complete cast:
ACT 1: Party Scene.
- Clara: Jolynne Waldner;
- Fritz: Anthony Romero;
- Clara’s mom: Joy D’Elia;
- Clara’s dad: Tommy Bledsoe.
- Clara’s friends: Arianna Fleischman, Harlow Hatin, Paris Lugo and Elea Woodward.
- Party parents: Luis Abella, Jane Boles, Joe Boles, Susan Foody, Bill Foody, Georgia Garrett, Tracey Upchurch, Beth Upchurch, Katherine Battenhorst and Todd Battenhorst.
- Cats: Jocelyn Herstone, Annabelle Hucke and Meadow Kuc; Maids: Katherine DeAcutis and Kiera Pheffer.
- Party girls: Jenny Albanesi, Josephine Anzelmo, Julia Douglas, Kismet Field, Claudia Mueckay and Lexi Brockway;
- Party boys: Giovana Andrioti, Rayna Glad, Taylor Cardona, Abby Chapman, Catalina Davis and Austin Fields.
- Drosselmeyer: Orlando Molina; Nephew: Jax Czerniak; Columbine: Natalee Hardy; Porcelain Doll: Kali Lee;
- Mechanical Doll: Jake Karger; Little sisters: Emma Maroney, Adelaide Pacetti and Emma Sweeney.
- ACT 1: Battle Scene. Mouse King: Luis Abella; Mouse Queen: Emily Masson; Nutcracker/Prince: Jake Karger.
- Mice: Ariel Brownell, Genesis Castellon, Kalia Chaconas, Olivia Cope, Jaida Fiorenze-Kuc, Lilian Czajkowski, Maura Hamilton, Nature Kuc, Anastasia McClarnon, Eliana Pacetti, Michal Pizanti, Kinslee Turley, Mesa Unsworth, Miriam Wallace and Adele Woodward.
- Soldiers: Giovana Andrioti, Lexi Brockway, Taylor Cardona, Abby Chapman, Catalina Davis, Austin Fields, Jax Czerniak and Anthony Romero.
ACT 1: Snow Scene.
- Snow Queen: Devin Mantei; Cavalier: Joshua Nunamaker; Snow Corps A: Arianna Fleischman, Paris Lugo, Ella Wimpelberg, Elea Woodward and Harlow Hatin; Snow Corps B: Kismet Field, Rayna Glad, Naomi Lewis, Ayla Lugo, Zana Schiano, Tess Woodward, Natalee Hardee and Ofir Pizanti; Snow Flakes: Madison Deprey, Lucy Murr and Chloe Straw.
ACT 2: Sweets.
- Angels: Mesa Unsworth, Kalia Chaconas, Joanna Herstone, Maddie Hartline, Elizabeth Muscetta, Anastasia McClarnon, Eliana Pacetti, Ava Smith, Miriam Wallace and Adele Woodward.
- Spanish Lead: Jenny Albanesi; Spanish Corps: Lexi Brockway, Naomi Lewis, Claudia Mueckay and Zana Schaino.
- Chinese Lead: Tess Woodward; Chinese Corps: Ariel Brownell, Olivia Cope, Jaida Fiorenze-Kuc, Lucy Murr, Michal Pizanti and Madison Deprey.
- Arabian Lead: Ella Wimpelberg; Arabian Corps: Maura Hamilton, Emma Maroney, Adelaide Pacetti, Chloe Straw and Emma Sweeney.
- Russian Leads: Joseph Dlearo, Collin Moser and Joshua Nunamaker; Russian Corps: Abby Chapman, Catalina Davis, Madison Deprey, Rayna Glad, Ayla Lugo and Ofir Pizanti.
- Mirliton Leads: Arianna Fleischman and Joshua Nunamaker; Mirliton Corps: Josephine Anzelmo, Julia Douglas, Kismet Field and Paris Lugo.
- Mother Ginger: Giovana Andrioti, Natalee Hardy, Joanna Herstone, Jocelyn Herstone, Annabelle Hucke, Nature Kuc, Eliana Pacetti, Adele Woodward and Austin Fields.
- Dew Drop: Harlow Hatin and Elea Woodward; Flower: Kali Lee, Devin Mantei, Ella Wimpelberg, Harlow Hatin and Elea Woodward.
- Sugar Plum: Grace Karger; Cavalier: Julio Conception.
The dancers attend 25 different area schools and several of them are home-schooled or virtual school students. Schools represented are: R.B.Hunt, Osceola, Crookshank, St. Augustine Public Montessori, Ketterlinus, Wards Creek, Valley Ridge Academy, Durbin Creek, Timberlin Creek, Cathedral Parish, St. John’s Academy, Penial Baptist Academy, Picolata Crossing, Island Prep, Veritas, Murray, Gamble Rogers, Fruit Cove, Pacetti Bay, Nease, Bartram Trail, St. Augustine High, St. Joseph Academy, Pedro Menendez and Flagler Palm Coast.
The Nutcracker Choir from Timberlin Creek Elementary School will perform prior to the start of each performance.
Tickets are available online at https://www.saintaugustineballet.com/tickets. Tickets will also be available in the Lewis Auditorium lobby beginning one hour before each performance.