Published Friday, November 30, 2012

The Nutcracker: Beloved Christmas ballet returns to Centre Dec. 8-9

From Staff Reports

Opening night for “The Nutcracker” at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts in Newnan will be Saturday, Dec. 8 with an afternoon performance set for Dec. 9. The ballet is a production of Southern Crescent Ballet Theatre and Southern Crescent Academy of Dance.

Several young Coweta County residents will shine in their lead roles on stage at The Centre. Not only are each of these performers full time high school students, but they also have a strenuous dance schedules. Typically, the dancers practice five days a week. But with the shows approaching, they have added days and hours, including six hours of rehearsals some days.

Coweta dancers to be featured are:

Brenna Uluwehi Nicole Ferden, 14, daughter of Dean and Debbie Ferden of Newnan, is a ninth grader at Georgia Cyber Academy. Ferden currently dances 14 hours a week, as well as taking some classes in Atlanta. Homeschooling has allowed her the ability to take additional morning ballet classes. In addition to her rigorous dance schedule, Ferden volunteers her time at Madras Middle School as choreographer for their show choir. She is very excited about performing the role of Clara in the Nutcracker. After high school, Ferden plans to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and hopes to someday dance professionally. In April 2012, she appeared in several roles in the ballet version of Cinderella. Her dream role would be to be cast as Cinderella in the Cinderella ballet.

Corey “CJ” Johnson, 15, son of Frankie and Dorothy Johnson of Grantville, is a sophomore at Trinity Christian School. Not only does Johnson dance about 14 hours a week at the studio, he also teaches Hip Hop classes.

Time away from the dance studio includes also enjoying church youth activities and taking tumbling. Johnson spends much time competing in Christian Hip Hop Competitions and has won several titles. He is very enthused about the upcoming ballet production. “It has been lots of fun to be around everyone for the show,” said Johnson. The Nutcracker will be his first ballet production. Johnson has aspirations of becoming a professional dancer in the movies and would maybe like to own a dance studio.

Chance Rankin, 14, son of Norma Lewis and Duke Rankin of Newnan, is a freshman at Northgate High School. Rankin spends about 14 hours a week at the studio. Last year, he ran track at Madras Middle School and had previously participated in karate and swimming in Franklin, N.C. Rankin is both excited and nervous to be performing a lead role in a ballet. His career goal is to be a Broadway dancer/ performer. Rankin said having “CJ” Johnson in the studio with him helps but the girl/boy ratio doesn’t affect him too much. “It (dance) really makes me feel more different from the crowd, which is a feeling I like to have.

I like to be ‘different,’ not just like everyone else,” said Rankin.

Hannah Yekel, 16, daughter of Russ and Nancy Yekel of Sharpsburg, is a sophomore at East Coweta High School and has been cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Nanny. Yekel dances 14 hours of regular dance classes each week. She has prepared for this role by taking any available master classes as well as weight training at East Coweta High School. In her spare time,

Yekel enjoys activities with Heatherwood Baptist Church Youth group. She would like to become a professional dancer as well as teaching other dancers. Previous productions have included the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker (2010), Nutcracker with Southern Crescent Ballet Theatre (2010), Christmas at The Centre (2011), Cinderella (2012), and Georgia Premier of The Little Mermaid (2012). “I originally had my heart set on being a Rockette, but unfortunately I’m just too short,” said Yekel. “I began to really think of other possibilities and performance opportunities. While I am a ballerina, I enjoy rhythmic tapping the most.”

While each of these young dancers are uniquely talented much credit also goes to Stephen Ball, owner and artistic director, for Southern Crescent Academy of Dance, as well as Randi Lancaster, ballet mistress, for Southern Crescent Ballet Theatre. Lancaster and Ball, who celebrates 50 years of teaching this year, spend countless hours behind the scenes preparing costumes, set designs, and arranging choreography for a production of this magnitude.

Performance dates are Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at the Centre. For ticket information, call 678-967-5272.

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