NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The Nutcracker is an eternal holiday season favorite, and when a performance troupe brings the ballet to New Rochelle High School this weekend, it will include two elements sure to catch residents' attention: several dozen New Rochelle school children as performers - and a dash of hip hop.
"It makes it more exciting," Webster fifth-grader Anna Johnson, one of the performers, said of the modern touch.
The Ajkun Ballet Theatre from Manhattan will present the ballet in NRHS's Whitney Young Auditorium at 7 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. The New Rochelle performances incorporate as many as 80 students. Most come from the Webster, Barnard, Jefferson, Davis, Ward and Trinity elementary schools, and Albert Leonard Middle School.
"My favorite part is when the nutcracker dances," said Ward second-grader Venessa Ruiz, who is one of the performers. "It's really cool."
The young performers are divided into three groups: ballet petite, ballet elementary and hip hop. The ballet petite performers portray Polchinelles; the ballet elementary will dance in the opening "Holiday Party" scene; the hip hoppers will perform as mice.
Some school children will perform featured roles such as soldiers, angels, the Mouse King and Clara. They include: Denisa Neza and Elpida Siolas as Clara in the afternoon and evening shows, respectively; Evan Tran as the Mouse King; Noelle Chollet and Sukanya Tounkara as soldiers; Anna McDonald as Dewdrop; Toni DiCiocco as Spanish; Isabella Camuto as Arabian; Jessica Byrne and Caitlyn Mahoney as Russian; Carly Mahoney as Mirliton; and Gwenaelle Blache, Jaslene Chambers, Jocelyn Rice, Lola Roosen, Arielle Salvilla, Fidella Swana as angels.
Some parents of children performing are also in the show.
Ajkun Ballet, founded in 2000 in New Rochelle, began a collaboration with the NRHS arts program PAVE 10 years ago. Now involving the entire school district, the arrangement has exposed New Rochelle students to professional dancers from 130 countries. In the Nutcracker, they perform with dancers from Argentina, Australia, Ecuador, Albania, Italy and Japan.
Jefferson fourth-grader Takodah Shelton enjoyed practicing with them.
"I love how they move gracefully," she said. "And I love how they do Christmas themes."
The ballet company is now accepting applications for participants in Don Quixote, which will begin rehearsals in March for April performances. Contact the company for information at [email protected] or (646) 202-1852.