Nutcracker Ballet Promises “En Pointe” Holiday Entertainment this Weekend

When it comes to the arts, Clarke County, Virginia has a long and distinguished history of delivering top-notch artistry and performances that exceed the county’s small population. This weekend’s performance of “A Nutcracker Holiday Celebration” promises to uphold our community’s tradition of excellence.

Clarke County dancer Elaina Morgan will perform as the Rum Plum Fairy in the performance of "A Nutcracker Holiday Celebration" - Photo Edward Leonard

“We wanted to do something that was a little different this year so we didn’t follow the traditional Nutcracker plot exactly” said Nela Niemann, artistic director of the Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts  in Berryville, Virginia.

Niemann said that this year’s performance will introduce both a jazz dance number as well as two tap dance numbers.

“We incorporated a couple of Duke Ellington’s arrangements of Tchaikovsky’s that work very nicely in the ballet” Niemann said. “The performance is very different from the traditional Nutcracker and we’re very proud of it.”

This year marks the Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts studio’s twentieth anniversary in Clarke County. During those two decades, Niemann estimates that she has taught thousands of dancers in ballet, tap, jazz and other dance styles. Several of Niemann’s students have gone on to dance professionally around the world.

“People are always pleasantly surprised about the extraordinary caliber of dance that we have here” Niemann said. “We have an excellent faculty and very dedicated students.”

This weekend’s performance of “A Nutcracker Holiday Celebration” will feature Niemann’s best dancers who were invited to perform based on an audition process. Although this will be the ensemble’s first performance together Niemann believes that audiences will be very pleased with the performance.

“A Nutcracker Holiday Celebration” will feature 22 primary dancers as well as 15 children dancing as “angels” and several supporting adults who will participate in the ballet’s opening party scene.

“We have some very talented dancers in this performance” Niemann said. Winchester high school senior Dillon Robb, who will dance the role of “Prince” in the ballet, has studied with Niemann since he was three years old. “Dillon is an amazing dancer and I think that his performance will be a treat for the audience.”

The “Rum Plum Fairy” will be danced by senior Elaina Morgan. Morgan says that she only started dancing five years ago but is now hoping to join a professional dance company rather than spending the next four years in college. “I haven’t decided where I’d like to dance for sure” Morgan said. “Dancing just feels very natural for me. It’s definitely my passion.”

Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts is a non-profit organization. It’s “A Nutcracker Holiday Celebration” performance will be held on Saturday, December 18 at 2:00pm and Sunday, December 19 at 7:00pm at Millbrook High School in Winchester. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

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Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts celebrates its 20th anniversary with a weekend performance of the Nutcracker


  1. Question…Why at Millbrook? What’s going on at the Middle School to prevent this from being performed right here in Clarke County?

    • I wondered that myself. JWMS auditorium was renovated 5-10 years ago, so it’s not that it can’t be done there. Capacity issue? I don’t know how Millbrook differs in size.

      However, it’s not just Clarke County residence who are part of the program. Could be a central location situation.

    • BPS and Cooley had their holiday programs at the Middle school over three nights this week. Each night featured only two grade levels….and each night was standing room only! I hope this was taken into consideration when planning the new high school!

      • Just sayin says:

        The new auditorium, if I remember correctly, is being designed for 670 people. 360 permanent seats, and 310 retractable seats (with backs and armrests). The area for the retractable seats was talked about, a year or so ago, as an auxilliary gym.

  2. The J-WMS auditorium was renovated 10 years ago, and seats about 200 less than Millbrook does. The dance studio has not danced there in over a year. Millbrook has a bigger and better stage with better lighting and sound, has more parking, and less other school events (as well as no weekly church service) to try to schedule around.

    • Tammy Lanham says:

      plus dressing rooms with sinks, mirrors, benches, coat rackes and extra bathrooms for the many costume changes the dancers needed to make. The large area outside the auditorium was perfect for baked goods (sold by volunteers), as well as sufficient sized hallways for the crowds (audience and dancers), and large back stage area for set changes and props. Apparently the reasonable rent also included a supportive and polite custodial staff and administrative staff that helped coordinate needs of the dance company. The Dancers were amazing, talented and well-trained. I am sure the Blue Ridge Dance Studio would prefer to dance locally, but a professionally run company needs to feature their dancers in a professional setting.

  3. One only has to attend a performance of “Nutcracker,” at Millbrook Highschool to understand why it was chosen for last year and this years performances!!!! By the way, the dancers gave an exemplary performance!!! What incredible talent! Bravo to all who danced and all who produced and directed the performance!