The Nutcracker Ballet

By on November 16, 2017

Many little girls dream about being a ballerina, dancing on pointe shoes, wearing beautiful costumes, and pirouetting across a stage to hauntingly beautiful classical music.

These dreams really do come true for the dancers at Ballet Prestige, the official training academy of New York State Ballet. New York State Ballet is a non-profit organization that offers talented dancers from the Rochester area, and all over the world, the chance to fulfill their dreams of becoming classically trained ballet dancers, and sharing their talent with the community in exceptional productions.

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet will be presented by New York State Ballet at the Kodak Center, 200 West Ridge Road, Rochester, on Friday, December 8 at 7PM; Saturday, December 9 at 2PM and 7PM; and Sunday, December 10 at 2PM. The production of The Nutcracker Ballet is always one of the artistic highlights of the holiday season.

The New York State Ballet Company chose their top dancers for the production of The Nutcracker. Ballet Prestige also chose their top dancers, and the auditions held in July filled the remainder of the parts. NYSB dancers are signed to a one year contract covering all four of their productions during the 2017/2018 season. In a ballet company you dance the parts that are assigned by the Artistic Director. The choreographers know which dancers they would like to perform specific parts for all productions, then all the casting selections are discussed with the Artistic Director.

Two young dancers from Rochester will perform the part of “Clara” in The Nutcracker. Cadence Burke and Helen Frank are both dancers at Ballet Prestige. They dance six to seven days a week and rehearse their part for The Nutcracker a few times a week. They have both danced in NYSB’s Nutcracker before, as well as Alice In Wonderland. The most significant role for a young dancer in The Nutcracker is “Clara” and both girls have worked their way up to achieve this role.

Cadence Burke’s favorite part of her performance is the party scene in the very beginning of the ballet when she receives the Nutcracker. She says, “It is very believable, fun and happy.” She also loves the Arabian dance scene because it is enchanting and beautiful to watch.

Helen Frank’s favorite part of her performance is when Clara dances with the Christmas Spirit. She says, “It is dreamlike, very mysterious and magical.” She also loves the flower core dance.

Natalia Serra came to the dance company from Brazil under a two year work visa. She will perform multiple parts: Marzipan, Snow Queen and the Flower Core. Kayleigh Danowski, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina will perform the Sugar Plum Fairy role for a second year. She is also a ballet instructor at Ballet Prestige. This year’s portrayal of Drosselmeyer will be performed by Robert Royce. Robert is the Ballet Master, he teaches the men’s class, and rehearses and coaches the dancers. He says, “It is fun to work and perform with the dancers in this production.”

There are three choreographers for The Nutcracker Ballet, and they work together as a team. Katherine Johnson, the Artistic Director and Certified Professional Instructor, Sarah Rothrock-Rickel, Assistant Artistic Director and Janet Wentling, a Ballet Instructor, the Student Choreographer and Director of the children’s rehearsals. Katherine says, “There are so many moving parts to work with, twenty in the live choir, twenty-one in the orchestra, and eighty-seven performers. We have to take all of these pieces and make them fit together.” Each of the choreographers work on different scenes and it is a team collaboration that makes it all work.

The goal of the dancers, choreographers, directors and entire production crew during this performance of the holiday classic The Nutcracker Ballet is to dazzle their audience, from the very beginning Christmas Party scene to the final dance scene. The audience will experience the world famous holiday music written by Tchaikovsky performed live by the professional New York State Ballet Orchestra, directed by Conductor Jared Chase, featuring the Lyric Voices Children’s Choir of the Lyric Theatre. The production also offers impeccable, classically trained ballet dancers wearing beautiful, colorful costumes, all set on the artistically designed and lighted Kodak Performing Arts stage.

Tickets start at $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets can be purchased through or by calling 1-800-838-3006.

Photos by Karen Fien







Katherine Johnson spends two hours curling Cadence's hair to get ready for a photo shoot.

Katherine Johnson spends two hours curling Cadence’s hair to get ready for a photo shoot.




The Head costume designer and wardrobe mistress, Anna Marie Lico-Alfano with the artistic director Katherine Johnson working on Clara's costume.

The Head costume designer and wardrobe mistress, Anna Marie Lico-Alfano with the artistic director Katherine Johnson working on Clara’s costume.



Kayleigh Danowski, Sugar Plum Fairy and Madison Cole, Doll.

Kayleigh Danowski, Sugar Plum Fairy and Madison Cole, Doll.

(L-R) Robert Royce (Drosselmeyer), Helen Frank (Clara) and Lily Miller (Christmas Spirit).

(L-R) Robert Royce (Drosselmeyer), Helen Frank (Clara) and Lily Miller (Christmas Spirit).