SIDNEY — When the Dayton Ballet performs its annual production of “The Nutcracker” this month, a Sidney Middle Schooler will be among the dancers onstage.
Ally Blatter, 12, will appear in the holiday favorite for the fifth year, but it’s her first as a Sidney resident. She, with her parents, Stephanie Dunkle-Blatter and Scott Blatter, moved here from Lima several months ago so that her mother could take a job at Wilson Health.
“We like that the commute to Dayton is half what it was from Lima,” Dunkle-Blatter laughed.
“Nutcracker” performances will be Dec. 14 and Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 15, 21 and 22 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 16 and 23 at 2:30 p.m. in the Schuster Center in downtown Dayton. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra accompanies the ballet.
Tickets cost $18 and up and are available at www.daytonperformingarts.org.
Ally started to study ballet when she was 3 and living in Columbus, Indiana. When the family relocated to Lima, she began taking classes offered by Dayton Ballet.
“I’ve done mostly ballet, but also tap and jazz and modern,” Ally said.
She has danced several roles in the various renditions of “The Nutcracker” during the last five years. She portrayed an attendant in 2014, a boy at the party in 2015 and a rat in 2017. This year, she will reprise a role she danced in 2016: a gingerbread cookie.
“Ally’s in the Dayton Ballet II junior company,” her mother explained. Even though Ally takes as many as six dance classes a week and has appeared in four previous “Nutcrackers,” as well as junior company productions, she still had to audition for a role in the 2018 show.
“You have to audition every year,” she said. “In the auditions, they give you different combinations of parts. Whatever you do best on, they give you a part from there.”
“They also base it on costumes, who will fit in what costume,” Blatter said. There are more than 100 children in the cast from cities throughout west central Ohio, as well as 19 professional dancers.
Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke choreographed “The Nutcracker.” Sets are by Ray Zupp, and costumes, by Lowell Mathwich. Dayton Philharmonic Music Director Neal Gittleman will conduct the Tchaikovsky score.
The children’s roles are double-cast, meaning that two dancers share each role. So Ally will appear in four of the eight performances: those scheduled for Dec. 21, 22 and 23.
“There’s this character, Mother Ginger. We’re basically her children,” Ally said in describing her role. “We come out from under her skirt. We dance for Clara.”
The plot of “The Nutcracker” involves a girl, Clara, who is given a nutcracker as a Christmas gift. It comes to life to fight the Mouse King and his legions of mice before becoming a handsome prince who takes Clara on a journey through a magical kingdom of sugar plums and dancing dolls.
The most difficult part of Ally’s dance, she said, is a section in which the gingerbreads must leap across the stage.
“You’re a cookie, so your body has to stay flat. Your legs are turned out, and your body goes another way,” she said. It’s by rehearsing that the difficult moves become doable.
“There are things that are difficult about every role, but if you practice enough and put it into muscle memory, it’s pretty easy,” she added.
Ally dances about seven and a half hours a week in classes and adds more time for “Nutcracker” rehearsals. So during this season of the year, she doesn’t do much besides school and ballet. In the fall, she also plays soccer and “this year, I started doing volleyball,” she said.
She also likes to sing, especially Broadway show tunes. It was because Ally was always singing and moving around when she was little that Dunkle-Blatter enrolled the toddler in dance classes.
“I grew up dancing. I love dance as an art. It’s a way to combine a love of music and movement,” Mom said.
Ally enjoys spending time with her friends backstage, waiting for their entrances.
“The gingerbread part is in the second act. We have quite a bit of time,” she said. The cookies don’t begin to get into costume until intermission.
“At intermission, we get our make-up done. At the beginning of the second act, we stretch and warm up. Then we get our costumes on,” Ally said.
Her parents are in the audience for every show.
“It’s been a great thing to be involved in and see it grow from beginning to end,” Blatter said.
After each performance, ticket-holders can particpate in a question-and-answer session with Burke and Dayton Ballet dancers.
Before the performances and during intermissions, audience members can enjoy the Rike’s Wonderland Windows in the Schuster Center lobby, shop at the Nutcracker Boutique for nutcracker- and ballet-themed items and purchase Graeter’s Ice Cream in the lobby’s Land of the Sweets.
The Dayton Ballet Barre, a fundraising group who support the company, will host a Sugar Plum Tea, Dec. 16, at 12:30 p.m. in the Dayton Woman’s Club, 225 N. Ludlow St., Dayton. Tickets cost $20 and are available at 888-228-3630.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.