The Nutcracker is a story ballet where a young girl's vivid dreams of a land of sweets and sugar plum fairies comes to life. Friday, those dreams were lived out on the stage by the talented dancers of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) as they performed for an audience of about 1,200 children, many of who were seeing a ballet for the very first time.
Children, like Keyana Hornbaker, were in awe of the beautiful dancers. Following the performance at Whitaker Center, she said she wanted to try a dance class.
"It seems so beautiful in so many ways," she said.
Inspiring other children to dance is part of the reason behind Friday's two school show performances. CEO of CPYB Alan Hineline said the shows are part of the school's Discover Dance program, an initiative to offer children exposure to the art at no cost.
"It's peers dancing for peers. They see people that are [their] age group up there doing this amazing dancing and this beautiful choreography," he said.
The choreography, isn't just any set of dance steps. The students of CPYB have the rare opportunity to perform the choreography of George Balanchine, one of the world's most highly regarded ballet choreographers and teachers. For the most part, his work is reserved for very select professional companies across the world.
"We are the only school in the world that is licensed to perform the George Balanchine Nutcracker," Hineline said.
It's an opportunity the young ballet students appreciate. Grace Snyder is dancing lead roles in the Nutcracker this year, and said she's honored to have the opportunity to learn such difficult choreography.
On stage, it is hard to believe she is still a teenager. Her talent as a ballerina is breathtaking. As the Dew Drop Fairy, she perfectly executed some of the most difficult technical turns there are and did it with ease, confidence and, most appropriately, grace.
"It's incredible because to think that people in New York are doing the dance in their 20's and 30's and we get the opportunity to do it when we are so young," Snyder said.
Anastasia Kubanda, who recently turned 15, danced the coveted role of Sugar Plum Fairy on Friday. Although still young, on stage, she appears well beyond her years, executing the choreography with confidence and poise and was able to couple a difficult technical role with the character and artistry of a professional.
"We are so lucky to be able to perform the choreography and for the school to make us capable of it," Kubanda said.
CPYB will be performing this weekend at Whittaker Center and at the Hershey Theatre December 15 and 16. For information on tickets, please visit CPYB.org.