Friends Upper School dancers perform a new dance, Snow, as part of the second annual performance of The Jazzy Nutcracker.
Friends Upper School dancers perform a new dance, “Snow,” as part of the second annual performance of The Jazzy Nutcracker.
Courtesy of Nikki Lewis

All-School Dance Recital Delights

Second- through 12th-graders wowed audiences this winter, with Friends’ second annual performance of the Jazzy Nutcracker, inspired by Duke Ellington’s take on the classic ballet.

The first sound of the night was an explosive collaboration between drums and bass. As the curtains opened, dancers jumped from their starting positions into electric, excited moves, setting a festive tone for Friends School’s Fall/Winter Dance Recital, The Jazzy Nutcracker.

Dancers from 2nd through 12th grades took part. Participants and audience members said the night was enjoyable from every perspective, whether they were in the dance or just came to watch a friend.

Sylena Christian, ‘24, is close with many members of the dance program. She said she loved the performance.

“I didn’t get to see all the beginning half; I missed the little intro. But from what I saw, I really liked it,” she said. “I got to see my friends, so I obviously thought that what they did was good.” 

One of Friends School’s most renowned features is the range of performing arts programs offered to students across all grades. The dance program, specifically, has allowed many students and alums to physically express themselves during their time here – and in some cases, even to gain valuable training for careers as professional dancers. 

Although Sylena could be biased toward enjoying her friends’ performances, the lasting applause at the end of each dance supported her opinions. Unlike most of those in the audience, Sylena actually has some history on the Forbush Auditorium stage.

“I’ve been in a couple [shows], like in Middle School and then freshman, sophomore year,” she said. “But this is the first one I’ve seen on stage.”  

It’s different, being on the other side of the performance.

“It feels better. I don’t feel as stressed as the dancers do, ’cause I know they’ve been working really hard to make sure everything’s good, and they have all their steps down and everything down pat,” she said.

Dance teacher Rachel Byers knows something about that stress. Before she started the Jazzy Nutcracker at Friends last year, she had never directed a performance on that scale.

“I’ve never done a Nutcracker a day in my life, like producing one. I’ve always danced in a Nutcracker, the original Tchaikovsky’s version of the Nutcracker,” she said. “It’s very classical, it’s a strict storyline to stick to. You can’t mess it up.”

Taking that beloved classic in a new direction was a challenge.

“With the Jazzy Nutcracker, I wanted to do something different, that people normally don’t see in the theaters,” she said. “I started researching, and I saw that Duke Ellington did his own version of the Nutcracker. And once I listened to the music, I said: I could hear the similarities and I can see a vision, but I didn’t know how I was going to put the whole story together … I had to really put my thinking cap on and get creative.”

The sold-out audience showed their appreciation for the dancers, musicians, instructors, engineers, and the rest of the team with applause between each number, and a standing ovation at the end. This wasn’t a rare sight for those in Friends School’s dance program.

“This program is really good,” said 8th grade dancer (and my sister) Nadia Lewis. “I think that they really try and pick out your talents and make sure that you’re at your full potential while dancing. [C]ompared to other dance companies I’ve been to, [I] like this one because it’s kind of more personal. And also our dance teacher is really nice.”

Nadia performed in the Jazzy Nutcracker, and has been dancing both at and outside of FSB for a total of seven years. She said the Friends School program stands out to her for its attention to each dancer, something that shows in their performances.

“I love the Jazzy Nutcracker and I love seeing all the other dances,” she said, “All the high school and the lower school dances are always cute.”

This seemed to be the consensus across the board. Inspired by Duke Ellington’s rendition of The Nutcracker, the Jazzy Nutcracker dance recital not only entertained the audience and performers, but also put many into a festive mood for the Christmas season!

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Quaker Quill

Comments (0)

All comments will be approved by Quill editors. Comments containing inappropriate language will not be approved.
All The Quaker Quill Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *