For as long as “The Nutcracker” has been a centerpiece of Christmastime festivities, so have its audiences eagerly awaited the magical moment in Act 2 when the principal ballerina strikes a pose on pointe and the first sweet, bell-like notes of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” waft up from the orchestra pit.
While the melody has become synonymous with the holiday, its ethereal timbre was a surprise to the Russian composer’s audience when it was first performed in 1892. “Tchaikovsky discovered in a music shop in Paris a new instrument called the celesta — which creates the piece’s celestial sound — and kept it hidden until 'The Nutcracker’s' premiere,” says David Bernard, music director of the Massapequa Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Long Island ensemble performs Tchaikovsky’s famous score in the Eglevsky Ballet’s memorable production of the holiday classic at Tilles Center this weekend. “I pretty much have the best seat in the house,” Bernard says. It is the conductor’s second year teaming up with the Bethpage dance company for its 50-plus-year tradition of presenting the ballet. Also returning are New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan as the Sugar Plum Fairy and New York City Ballet principal dancer Jared Angle as her Cavalier.
The orchestral accompaniment has not been the only change in the production’s staging since Maurice Brandon Curry became the Eglevsky’s artistic director in 2015. The modifications Curry has made in the telling of the narrative have provided audiences a deeper connection to its protagonists.
In Act 1, the young Clara (East Patchogue’s Erin Delargy) steals a glance at Uncle Drosselmeyer’s assistant (Lochlan Brooks, a student at the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School), who later appears as the Nutcracker Prince. “They are much more engaged prior to the fantasy,” Curry explains. Adding dimension to their relationship is Curry’s decision to have the two young dancers perform the pas de deux commonly executed by the Snow Queen and her King.
Also distinguishing Curry’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” is a fully automated, growing Christmas tree. “There are no strings, no wires,” he says proudly of the state-of-the-art scenery. “I’m pretty certain it’s the only one like it on Long Island.”
The 22-foot-tall expanding prop, says Bernard, is yet another reason the Eglevsky Ballet production is a must-see this season. “The magic, passion, and vividness expressed through the music and the movement — it’s all part of the holiday spirit.”
WHAT "The Nutcracker"
WHEN | WHERE 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Tilles Center, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville
INFO $48-$78; 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org
That suite treat known as "The Nutcracker" will be popping up all over Long Island this month. Here's where to see them.
WHO Frank Ohman’s New York Dance Theater
WHEN | WHERE Noon and 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, John Cranford Adams Playhouse, Hofstra University, Hempstead
INFO $32-$42; 631-462-6266, ohmanballet.org
WHO Lynch School of Ballet
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday and noon and 4 p.m. Sunday, Huntington High School, 188 Oakwood Rd.
INFO $30, $20 ages 3-17; 631-470-9711, lynchballet.com
WHO Posey Dance Repertory Co.
WHEN | WHERE 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Northport Middle School, 11 Middleville Rd. | Sat Dec 15 - Sun Dec 16
INFO $25; 631-757-2700, poseyschoolofdance.com
WHO Cultural Arts Playhouse
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 30, 170 Michael Dr., Syosset
INFO $20-$38; 516-694-3330, culturalartsplayhouse.com
WHO Lumiere Ballet
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, Maguire Theatre, SUNY Old Westbury
INFO $30, $25 ages 12 and younger; 631-586-2921
WHO American Dance Theatre of Long Island
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, Van Nostrand Theater, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood
INFO $25, $20 seniors; adtli.com
WHO Seiskaya Ballet
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Dec. 20-21, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 22 and 1 and 6 p.m. Dec. 23, Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nichols Rd., Stony Brook
INFO $40, $34 children and seniors; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com
WHO Ballet Long Island
WHEN | WHERE 3 p.m. Dec. 27 and 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 28, The Noel S. Ruiz Theater at CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale
INFO $40; 631-737-1964, balletlongisland.com