This weekend, the Volusia Civic Ballet will take audiences on a journey full of holiday magic, colorful characters and the classical music of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as it presents "The Nutcracker in the Round" at the Ocean Center.
Featuring Ormond Beach residents Joy Perry as Clara and Tanner Noronha-Weeks as the Nutcracker, the show tells the story of the traditional ballet in a new format, to grace the stage with three performances on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5-6. With a cast of over 90 performers from 18 dance studios, including Dayesi Torriente and Arian Molina Soca form the Pennsylvania Ballet, audiences will be able to watch the full-length production from all sides of the circular stage.
Seats are sold in pods of two, three and tables of eight to comply with social distancing restrictions. There will also be a Children's Sugar Plum Tea at 6 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday, where children ages 3-12 will be able to enjoy sweets as some of the Nutcracker characters make an appearance.
Motivated to perform
For Perry, landing the lead role of the ballet is something she's always worked toward. This is her eight year participating in The Nutcracker, and it's now the 13-year-old's turn in the spotlight.
“It’s kind of scary, you know, but it’s exciting," Perry said. "I’m really honored that they picked me.”
She didn't land the role without hard work. Perry has danced since she was 4 years old. She attends dance practices six days a week. Part of what inspires her is watching and learning from the previous principal dancers, as well as the guest artists.
“When I see them dance, it’s just like this passion that they have that flows through everybody that loves to dance, and I think that’s what motivates me to do it every week and push my body," Perry said.
Noronha-Weeks, who plays Clara's love interest — an apprentice of mysterious magician Uncle Drosselmeyer turned Nutcracker in Clara's dream in the ballet — has performed in the annual Nutcracker performance a total of six times. The Spruce Creek High senior said he goes back every year for the younger dancers. He remembers the older kids doing the same for him at their age.
"Not many boys dance so it’s cool to fuel their passion while they fuel mine," said Noronha-Weeks, who is 17.
A love of dance
Both dancers with South Beach Dance, the local teenagers are passionate about their talent.
Perry hopes to dance at ballet conservatory someday. Getting there might mean choosing dance over hanging out with friends sometimes, Perry said, but those are sacrifices one has to make to dance on the stage. She loves to perform.
"If it’s something you really want to do, it’s worth it in the end," she said.
Noronha-Weeks wrote his college essays on being a male ballet dancer. It's not easy, he said, but he's had wonderful teachers help him build confidence along the way. One was the late Barbara Janisaitis, one of his former instructors at South Beach Dance. Having been put in dance classes at 6-years-old by his parents, and hated it, it Janisaitis who helped him fall in love with the art form.
Now, he dances 20 hours a week while working two jobs and attending school. Once in college, he hopes to pursue an engineering degree.
Without all the staff and teachers aiding the ballet this year, the show would not be possible, Noronha-Weeks said. In a year where many holiday events have been canceled, the Volusia Civic Ballet decided the show must go on.
“It’s also a time where people need something to look forward to, and I feel like the Nutcracker will be that this holiday season," Noronha-Weeks said.