Unlike the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and her delectable sequences of pirouettes and leaps in “The Nutcracker,” the Ohman School of Ballet’s production of the Tchaikovsky classic at Hofstra University’s John Cranford Adams Playhouse this weekend is somewhat bittersweet.
“It is unfortunate not having Mr. Ohman here,” says company manager Argere Loizides of Frank Ohman, the founder of the 40-year-old Commack school and a former New York City Ballet soloist, who died in July at 80. “But, we are happy to be able to carry on his legacy.”
That legacy derives from 20th century dance master George Balanchine, who gave Ohman his blessing — one of only a select few — to use his original choreography for the grand pas de deux danced by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her gallant Cavalier. Guest artists Daniel Ulbricht and Brittany Pollack, a principal dancer and soloist, respectively, of the New York City Ballet, will perform the beloved duet. (Pollack was slotted for the role last year, but suffered a sprained ankle close to showtime.)
In tribute to Ohman, the part of Clara and Fritz’s grandfather, one he traditionally played in the ballet’s opening Christmas celebration, will be vacant. “He made it his own,” Loizides comments. “He added a little shtick, like pretending to go off in a senile way, that gave a lot of humor to the party scene.”
Other personal touches Ohman made to the production remain. Similar to his mentor Balachine, Ohman tinkered with the Nutcracker program, incorporating additional bits set to music lifted from other Tchaikovsky works. In Act 2, for example, Clara (played alternately by Elysena DeStefano of Commack and Averie Masia of Port Washington) and her prince are treated to a celebration of sweets from around the world. Along with the traditional chocolate from Spain and candy canes from Russia, Ohman slipped in such delicacies as a Hungarian-style Czardas dance, an Italian Neapolitan dance and a Polish mazurka.
Arguably, the greatest treat the ballet master left his students and colleagues was his commitment to the classical genre. “Besides the Balanchine technique, the stories he would share about his days dancing with New York City Ballet and why ‘Mr. B’ wanted him to start his own school and company on Long Island gave the students a special experience connecting them to the dance world,” says James Stucchio of Dix Hills, one of several Ohman alumni appearing this year as a parent in the party scene. His daughter, Adrianna, 11, joins him on the Hofstra stage.
Next month New York City Ballet principal Ask la Cour takes the helm of the Ohman School as its artistic director, continuing its founder’s mandate. “It is an incredible opportunity for our students,” notes Stucchio. “Right here in Commack, the Ohman School continues to provide a world-class ballet program, training the next generation of dancers.”
Prodded if he might retire, Ohman once responded, “I’m going to jeté right out of this world.” Fortunately, his legacy won’t.
A SUITE TREAT
As sweet as a sugar plum and every bit as tasty, it just wouldn't be the holidays without "The Nutcracker." Here's where to see it.
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Tilles Center, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville
INFO $59-$79; 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org
Lynch School of Ballet
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 21 and noon and 4 p.m. Dec. 22, Huntington High School, 188 Oakwood Rd.
INFO $35, $30 ages 65 and older, $25 ages 3-18; 631-470-9711, lynchballet.com
Posey Dance Repertory Co.
WHEN | WHERE 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 21 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22-23 and 26, Northport Middle School, 11 Middleville Rd.
INFO $30; 631-757-2700, poseyschoolofdance.com
Cultural Arts Playhouse
WHEN | WHERE 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 30, 170 Michael Dr., Syosset
INFO $18-$38; 516-694-3330, culturalartsplayhouse.com
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, Maguire Theatre, SUNY Old Westbury
INFO $30, $25 ages 17 and younger; 631-586-2921, lumiereballet.com
American Dance Theatre of Long Island
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, John Drew Theater, Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton
INFO $25, $20 seniors and ages 12 and younger; adtli.com
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Dec. 19-20, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 1 and 6 p.m. Dec. 22, Staller Center, 100 Nichols Rd., Stony Brook
INFO $40, $34 children and seniors; 631-632-2787, stallercenter.com
Ballet Long Island
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23, Noel S. Ruiz Theater at CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale
INFO $40; 631-737-1964, balletlongisland.com
Frank Ohman's New York Dance Theater production of 'The Nutcracker'
WHEN | WHERE 12 and 5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, John Cranford Adams Playhouse, Hofstra University, Hempstead
INFO $30-$42; 631-462-6266, ohmanballet.org