Last weekend, Lawrenceville dance students enjoyed the magic of the Philadelphia Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” then had a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to go backstage and meet the stars. Lawrentians Naiya Bharvad ’25, Ally Calderon ’24, Bailley Georgieva ’23, Corinne Johnson ’23, Aoife Kilfeather ’24, Alex Mykhantso ’23, Elizabeth Pierre-Louis ’22, Quinn Thierfelder ’22, Redding Worth ’23, and Michelle Zhang ’25 all made the trip to the Academy of Music in nearby Philadelphia.
Mykhantso said it was hard to find the words to express his amazement over “The Nutcracker” performance. “Seeing the show was definitely a dream come true,” he explained. “Every single piece was perfectly executed: moves, tone, music, emotions, props, decorations – everything was to the highest standard, so at one point I quite literally forgot where I was and immersed myself completely into the actions of the ballet.”
After seeing the professionals, Calderon said she would think more about more formations, costumes, and even some new moves. “Knowing the short amount of time that they had to learn their dance is truly inspirational because it motivates me to do my best to put on a great dance performance, she said. Georgieva was impressed with the fluid movements of the professionals. “It made me think about how I can improve,” she said.
Mykhantso, along with fellow members of The Lawrenceville School Dance Collective, performed excerpts from “The Nutcracker” at the Dec. 10 all-School meeting. Watching the pros dance the same show gave him, he said, “an example of perfection that I will strive for moving forward. It was certainly very amusing to hear the familiar music I rehearsed to and seeing their own version of the dance that I did. Certainly, their technique is much more supreme compared to mine, but I was glad that the moves I did were not much inferior or ‘easier’ than theirs, which inspires me to keep dancing because some day I might be able to do what they did!”
Philadelphia Ballet Principal Dancer Sterling Baca and Corps de Ballet Dancer Siobhan Howley met with students after the performance. “I was super nervous at first since both of them are actually renowned adult dancers, but once we started talking, I realized that both of them are super nice and treated us very warmly. We spent about 30 minutes chatting about dancing career, rehearsals, ‘The Nutcracker,’ the Academy of Music, their plans, hopes, and even about future cooperation! I was extremely sad to learn that we do not have much time and had to go back on our bus because I think we could talk hours and hours together about our shared passion. I really hope we will meet them someday again,” said Mykhantso.
The trip is the beginning of what Director of Dance Derrick Wilder hopes will be an exciting partnership between the School and the Philadelphia Ballet. “We’re beginning conversations about what the relationship can be and how to build it,” said Wilder. He hopes the partnership will include a future on-campus performance by Philadelphia Ballet II, and perhaps chances for the pro dancers teach classes or work with Lawrentians on choreography. “We want to see how we can best serve each other,” said Wilder.
The beauty of Philadelphia Ballet II, Wilder explained, is that it comprised of dancers that are close in age to Lawrentians. Ultimately, he hopes the collaboration will give Lawrenceville student-artists a sense of what it means to be a professional dancer and “open their eyes to the realm of possibilities of what they can do,” Wilder said. “I want them to see the real experience of a professional company and what it takes to be a professional dancer – to see what it is like to be passionate about something and turn that passion into a reality.”
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