The holidays in Northern Virginia are a site to be- hold and a time for celebrating together with family, neighbors, and friends. In Loudoun and Fauquier counties, we are lucky to have amazing scenery year-round, but the charm of the area especially warms us during this time of year. Parades, holiday markets, and other themed activities abound, including a gem of a production – the classic holiday ballet The Nutcracker in Warrenton featuring one of the ballet world’s largest stars and a cast of local students.
The Centre Company, the non-profit performance arm of Lasley Centre for the Performing Arts in Vint Hill, presents The Nut- cracker on December 7 and 8 at Fauquier High School. The ballet delights with all of the elements we love about The Nutcracker – Clara and her Nutcracker prince on their journey to the Land of Sweets, gorgeous costumes, that classic Tchaikovsky score, and the lovely dancers, including the smallest boys and girls that bring an “ah” from the audience when they take the stage. While Centre Company’s presentation includes it all, there is also an additional bonus – two special guest artists that join the company for this performance. Cory Stearns, Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City, dances the roles of Cavalier and Nutcracker, while Orlando Ballet dancer and Lasley Centre alumna Julia Carlson dances the role of Sugarplum Fairy.
In his position as Principal, Cory is in the top tier of ballet at one of the world’s premier ballet companies. To see him in our area, without travel to New York or Washington, D.C., is an exceptional treat for ballet fans and also a great introduction to ballet for those new to the art form, from the very young to new patrons of all ages.
Born on Long Island, New York, Cory began his classical training at the age of five with Mme. Valia Seiskaya at the Seiskaya Ballet. At fifteen, he participated in the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition and was offered a full scholar- ship to The Royal Ballet School in London, one of the top pro- grams in the world. Stearns performed in Madrid, Moscow, Milan, Düsseldorf and London while at The Royal Ballet, graduating with honors. He joined the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in September 2004, the main Company as an apprentice in January 2005, and became a member of the corps de ballet in January 2006. He was appointed a Soloist in January 2009 and a Principal Dancer in January 2011. His repertoire includes the top ballet roles for male dancers from the classics and beyond.
“One of the most reward- ing aspects of my job is finding myself in the same position as the professional dancers of my youth who visited my school and inspired all the students,” Cory said. “So much of being a professional dancer is working on the self, but by freelancing and visiting schools as a guest artist, it gives you the opportunity to con- tribute to other’s development and interest in dance.”
Warrenton native Julia Carl- son comes home to dance for the holidays, reuniting with the cast and her Lasley Centre teachers. “The Sugar Plum Fairy is one of the most difficult parts in The Nutcracker, but it’s every dancer’s dream role,” Julia said. “The Nutcracker with its wintery mag- ic always gets me into the Christmas Spirit. I am really looking forward to coming home and visiting with my amazing teachers and the ballet students, too!”
Currently in her first year as a trainee at Orlando Ballet, Julia feels her teachers at Lasley pre- pared her well for the rigors of life at a major ballet company. “The teachers back home are of the highest quality, command- ing the best from their students, whether their desire is a career in dance like myself, or simply to enjoy dancing,” Julia says. “Or Centre Performing Arts Company Presents “THE NUTCRACKER” lando has been a roller coaster of new life experiences and emotional growth, but the in- structors encouragement and the great friendships I have made make dancing at Orlando Ballet an enjoyable experience.”
The Nutcracker premiered in Russia in 1892 but was first performed in the United States in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet – the same company that Executive Director Kalie Lasley danced with in her days as a professional ballet dancer. Ms. Lasley is an ABT Certified Teacher who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training In- tensive in Pre-Primary through Level 6 of the ABT National Training Curriculum, a level few in our area have reached.
Cory, who is returning for the second year to dance with Centre Company, is complimentary of his whole experience. “Not every school is a pleasure to visit, but the Lasley Centre is,” he said. “The students are polite and appreciative of the advice I offer; the facilities are beautiful; the staff is warm and gracious of my presence and Kalie is a highly considerate, passionate director. I’ve enjoyed every vis- it and feel privileged to be able to provide the students with the valuable knowledge I’ve gained throughout my life, from both teachers like Kalie and professionals like myself, who offered me advice as a student.”
Centre Company presents The Nutcracker at Fauquier High School, 705 Waterloo Rd in Warrenton. Shows are Sat- urday, December 7 at 2pm and 6pm; Sunday, December 8 at 4pm. Tickets are $20-$25 and are on sale now. For tickets and information, visit centrecompany.org or call 540-905-8311. For information on Lasley Centre for the Performing Arts, visit www.lasleycentre.com