Bless Your Hearts ECU administrators and trustees. Seems you have a champagne taste for athletics, but are stuck with a...

'The Nutcracker': Performances share common thread of giving to the community

1 of 4

Dance Arts Theatre will present “The Nutcracker” this weekend at ECU’s Wright Auditorium.


By Kim Grizzard

Friday, December 8, 2017

The life-size nutcracker soldier that appears to stand guard outside a rehearsal studio at the North Carolina Academy of Dance Arts is not alone this year. Behind him hangs a small cloth version, centered on a one-of-a-kind quilt commemorating the beloved ballet “The Nutcracker.”

Unlike the soldier, this keepsake is not destined to become a fixture at the studio. The quilt, which depicts in silhouette a dozen scenes from the ballet, will be raffled as a benefit for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Created by the grandmothers of two dancers, it is a fitting symbol of a production that for most of the last three decades has become part of the fabric of the community.

“The Nutcracker” will celebrate its 26th season this weekend with three performances in ECU’s Wright Auditorium. First staged by the nonprofit Dance Arts Theatre in 1985, the production has been an annual holiday event since 2001.

Since then, “The Nutcracker” has generated more than $165,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through an endeavor that began before any of the students in this year’s production ever slipped their feet into a pair of ballet shoes.

“When you first start out (in “The Nutcracker”), it’s part of being in a bigger production with older girls and finally reaching that milestone,” said Marye Amanda McDaniel, a senior at Greenville Christian Academy who has been studying dance at NCDA for 15 years. “As you get older, you start to realize the benefits it has for the community and how you’re not just doing it for enjoyment, you’re doing it to help others.”

CMN Hospitals “Miracle Child” Piper Wilhide, 5, who was treated at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital for cancer when she was 4 weeks old, will make a cameo appearance in Saturday’s matinee performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Featuring a cast of 125, including five guest performers, the popular Christmas ballet tells the story of a little girl whose beloved nutcracker soldier is transformed into a handsome prince who takes her on a magical journey.

“Every little girl, at some point in her little dance career, dreams of being in ‘The Nutcracker,” said Dance Arts Theatre Artistic Director Sherryl Tipton.

For Taylor Pinney, who has the part of Clara Silberhaus, that dream began the first time she saw “The Nutcracker.” She knew immediately that she wanted to be part of it.

“I think all of us have a list of parts that we want to be one day, starting out being a little kid on the staircase,” said Taylor, a South Central High School senior who has been studying dance for 15 years. “It’s crazy how one little part can get you hooked.”

Taylor is one of a handful of seniors who have been performing in Dance Arts Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” since they were old enough to audition. Children as young as second grade are cast as rosebuds in “Waltz of the Flowers” in the second act.

Arendell Parrott Academy senior Bobbie Leigh Barbour has a soft spot for that first role. Even after a decade has passed, she still remembers giving flowers to the character of Clara.

“That one thing was really exciting for me,” she said, laughing.

Bobbie Leigh will be featured in the Spanish dance, “Chocolate from Spain” in her final appearance in “The Nutcracker.” After 14 years of dance, she is sad to see it end.

“We’re just going to be lying on the floor in the dressing room crying (after Sunday’s performance),” she said. “It happens every year. People always cry.”

D.H. Conley High School senior Kirsten McMahon said Christmas will not be the same after she dances her final role in “The Nutcracker.” Her entire family is involved in the production. Sisters Kaylee and Sophia are both dancers. Their parents pitch in with props and costumes.

“Once I graduate, I’ll be the only one not doing ‘The Nutcracker,’” Kirsten said. “But hopefully I’ll have time next year to come and help.”

It is not uncommon for alumni to return for “The Nutcracker” long after they have taken their final bows as performers. Former dancers volunteer to help with quick changes backstage. Mothers of girls who danced in previous productions still stop by early in the season to help Production Manager Lisa Kannen sew costumes in what she jokingly calls her “sweat shop.”

“I think it’s so neat to see these moms just randomly show up,” Tipton said. “... It’s interesting to me how many kids come back just to be here because I think in their lives this had a special place.

“Former students that may have graduated from here, they’re probably in their 40s, bring their children to see ‘The Nutcracker.’ They drive from Wilmington or they’ll drive from Raleigh or different areas where they live to do that. It definitely is something that once you’ve done it, I think there’s always a connection.”

Dance Arts Theatre will present “The Nutcracker Ballet” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at ECU’s Wright Auditorium. Net proceeds from this event will be donated to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to benefit the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center. Tickets are $35 for adults and $28 for children. Call 328-4788 or visit nutcrackerballetdat.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


February 17, 2019

The pulse of the universe beats in the air of Pluto.

Pluto, the famous dwarf planet in our Solar System, is cold, extremely cold, year round. It is especially cold during its 124-year long winter, when it is so frigid that its wan atmosphere freezes to the icy surface. Then, in summer, the ice…


February 17, 2019

In recognition of Black History Month, The Daily Reflector is excerpting the following NCPedia article by Steven A. Hill, a teacher at J.H. Rose High School who has been working to chronicle a history of Pitt County’s Schools. Visit www.ncpedia.org/eppes-charles-montgomery for the…


February 17, 2019

One Father's Day, when I was 6 years old, I asked my dad why there was no such thing as "Kids' Day," and he said, "Because every day is kids' day." And that's my feeling about Presidents Day. Every day is Presidents Day. Besides, I'm not quite sure if not getting my mail is going to make me think…


February 17, 2019

One of the surest signs of middle age is a Facebook feed full of friends detailing their medical ailments.

Just this week, I counted not one, not two, but three pals who were undergoing knee replacement surgery. One proudly posted a post-op X-ray showing what looked like a spring in her leg.…


February 16, 2019

Although we’ve had some warm weather, it's still winter. But as a tease, paper-whites are opening up in the yard, and red maples are already showing their bright flowers. Fragrant Daphnes and a few withering winter-sweets are scattered around the neighborhood, and this afternoon we had a…


February 15, 2019

There have been plenty of movies about tough women. In fact, picking the Top 10 is harder than you might think. But here goes, the ones I picked and the ones I didn’t.

10) Trinity, “The Matrix” — Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity was hacker chic before the hacker chic of…

Sigourney Weaver

February 13, 2019

If you’re hungry and seeking more authentic flavor for your next meal, why not and take a trip to India without leaving Greenville. Go beyond steak & potatoes, dive into a new culture, expand your culinary palate and you’ll be sure to add Cinnamon Indian Cuisine to your top…


February 13, 2019

Q: My girlfriend is a health nut, but I really want to give her some chocolate for Valentines. Is it ok? MK, Greenville

A: Kathryn Clary, a Brody medical student, suggests that dark chocolate really can prevent a broken heart with its benefits to the cardiovascular system. Here is what she wants…

Kolasa, Kathy

February 10, 2019

You're from out of town going 65 mph down the highway heading west, and you want to catch another highway going north. What do you think the exit sign should say in 3-foot-tall letters?

A) Gophertown

B) Exit 42

C) Gov. Tiddwilly Memorial Highway

D) Pinewood Mall

Quick, you've got nanoseconds to…


February 10, 2019

I was thinking recently about all the fallout from the removal of the Confederate soldier statue, “Silent Sam,” at UNC-Chapel Hill.

That, in turn, led me to remember the deafening silence of UNC’s first African American cheerleader, Jimmy Womack, during the football season of 1966…

Bob Garner
122 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 13
        Next Page»   Last Page»