Up & Coming Weekly

November 30, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 12 of 24

12 UCW DECEMBER 1-7, 2021 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Only a few weeks until show- time, the main room at Charlotte Blume School of Dance is packed and abuzz with energy. More than forty dancers stand, in fifth posi- tion, the floor a mixture of soft and pointe shoes, legs extended, and arms outstretched with deli- cate fingers pointing toward the ceiling. e room is small but warm, a far cry from the thirty-degree weather outside. Upon each call from one of their instructors David Alan Cook, the dancers shifted positions in unison — a dance so precise it looks as if they are pulled by strings. Along the walls of the room are nutcrackers, candy canes, tin solider hats and pictures of Christmas lore — all relics of Clara's fantastical dream, and fifty-one years of tradition. In the back sits the head of the mouse king, crown and all, await- ing his on-stage debut. At Charlotte Blume School of Dance and throughout Fayetteville, it's time for "e Nutcracker." Just beyond the dancers plays a video of Pepta's "e Nutcracker." e dancers strive for precision. ey match their movements against Pepta's dancers. In the studio, the only sound that can be heard is the soft, shallow patter- ing of feet on laminate floor. e dancers lightly glide to the tape on the floor that marks particular fractions of the stage. eir bod- ies remain angled out toward the audience. ey check their posi- tion, readjust and do it again and again. is will continue dozens of times. "We'll run the same two min- utes for an hour to get it right," Dina Lewis, the school's execu- tive director, says as she watches her dancers' arms and feet. Lewis says they'll tell the girls to pretend they are holding pennies between their knees for their bourrée. "We say it because quarters are too big." Technique, according to Lewis, is why students come to this dance group. e music stops, and just like that, the current dancers run "off stage" and others run on to take their place. "Dancers, you have to pay at- tention while you are working on the stage," Cook says, his shoul- ders held back and feet held in position. Like an orchestra leader, he brings his attention to differ- ent areas of the room, tightening the dance and congratulating dancers on their hard work. In the other corner, Emalee Smith, another instructor, is perfecting the dance of some of the older dancers. e dream continues. In many ways, so does the dream of Charlotte Blume. Blume passed away in 2016. "e Nut- cracker Ballet" is a legacy of sorts for the North Carolina State Ballet and for Charlotte Blume School of Dance. Blume started "e Nut- cracker" in 1959 and it has run every year since, with the excep- tion of last year. It is a legacy that is now kept alive by Lewis, the executive director for the school and the President of North Caro- lina State Ballet. Lewis talks of Blume fondly and reverently like a maternal figure whose ghost is welcomed to haunt the school. Each part of this play, for Lewis and other dancers who knew Blume well, keeps her alive. "Each set has a piece of her in it … we have pieces of her that we make sure is [on] that stage." In 2020, like much of the world, this version of "e Nutcracker" did not go on. "We sat home last year watch- ing 'Nutcracker' on TV like every- one else did," Lewis said. But in December 2020, around Lewis's birthday, she received a card from a little girl who played a mouse in "e Nutcracker" just the year before. e note, which wished Lewis a happy birthday, also said, "all I want for Christmas is for "Nutcracker" to come back." When February came around, Lewis said the company was short of funding for the play due to all the closures during COVID-19. She and the board decided that regardless of the funds, 2021 needed "e Nutcracker." e community needed "e Nut- cracker." "ere's a little mouse that we all need to thank … one I just couldn't say no to." e little girl's note is now posted on Lewis's mirror at home. e little girl has since moved with her family due to the military. Lewis says a lot of what she learned and embodies now comes from Charlotte Blume. It's all about giving back, she says. While a mouse helped her bring back the beloved play, Blume has always been at the heart of it. "You just feel like you owe it to Charlotte to continue this." Charlotte Blume School of Dance will hit the stages Dec. 11 at the Crown eatre. ere are 69 dancers in this year's production, from ages 5 and up. Each year, Lewis says, the choreography changes slightly to keep students and the audience engaged. is year, she tried to keep unification at the center of the play. At the end of the day, Lewis sits back and looks at the pictures of "her kids," handwritten notes from students and pictures of Charlotte and smiles when she speaks about this year's produc- tion of "e Nutcracker." "When the picture comes together … [it's] magical. It's the coolest thing. I get chills thinking about it. I think Charlotte is going to be proud of us. She's going to be pretty happy." Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 COVER STORY A tale of two 'Nutcrackers' by KATHLEEN RAMSEY e Mouse King costume piece rests on a table in the Charlotte Blume School of Dance studio while dancers rehearse for an upcoming perfor- mance of "e Nutcracker." (Photo by Kathleen Ramsey) e Dance eater of Fayetteville performers dance "e Nutcracker." (Photo courtesy of the Dance eater of Fayetteville)

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