EAST NOTTINGHAM >> The staff and dancers from the Oxford Center for Dance pulled a glorious spectacle out of their hats with the performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet on Saturday.
The group put on two performances Saturday at Oxford Area High School and attracted more than 700 people in audience response.
“The Nutcracker” with a score by Tchaikovsky and a Christmas theme is said to be the nation’s most popular ballet, and it is especially well attended during the holiday season.
It showcases a dreamlike theme with children, candy, little animals, snow and a prince and princess. For many young people it is their first experience seeing a ballet.
Center for Dance founder and Director Dina Gazzerro said the group has been presenting “The Nutcracker” on alternate years on many occasions. In the past they have presented it in Rising Sun, Maryland, but this year they were delighted to have been given the use of Oxford High School.
She praised the school administration and staff for providing the venue and spoke especially highly of the head custodian, Roger Madron, who helped set up and take down the props.
“He called today to say he had taken down the set. He went above and beyond,” Gazzerro said.
“The Nutcracker” is a grueling show to perform, using about 90 dancers from age 5 through adult.
She said they started practicing all day Saturdays and half of Sundays from August through the opening day.
The costumes are splendid and are kept each year in storage for the next.
Gazzerro said her late mother made the costumes, and it took her a year.
Sometimes they need replacing and repair, but she said if they pass the “30-foot-test” (they look good from 30 feet away), they are reused.
The audience at the show was wildly enthusiastic and appreciative of the high calibre of dance and showmanship on Saturday.
Only three of the performers, Rick Callender as the Cavalier, Caleaf Henson as the Snow King and Jaime Lennon Louis as the Sugar Plum came on board as guest dancers from the Brandywine Ballet. Gazzerro said they came in the later weeks and fit right in.
The Oxford School for Dance operates out of the old Cameron’s Hardware Building on Baltimore Pike, which Gazzerro, staff and parents transformed into a four-room studio in 1991.
Before that, she taught in a basement starting in 1978. Through the years the membership has grown to about 200 students and 10 teachers. In that time the school has added modern, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Musical Theater, Contemporary and Improv to its original ballet, tap and jazz.
Gazzerro said she could not have produced “The Nutcracker” and other shows without the generous help of parents and classes. She is particularly pleased that all this is happening in Oxford, which in the old days had a reputation as “a little town without much money.”
But she sees that all changing and the town entering a period of substantial growth and culture. She credits the Oxford Arts Alliance among those who are leading the way.
“Oxford is really coming into its own,” she said.
Of the support and enthusiasm she is enjoying, she said, “I don’t know if it’s a country thing.”
Oxford School of Dance students also perform at the town parade and other events nearby.