Productions of “The Nutcracker” ballet are holiday staples around the world. Local nonprofit The Dance Theatre of Fayetteville, however, has a goal that reaches beyond entertaining its audience. TDTF exists to enable every young dancer to perform in “The Nutcracker” regardless of their family’s income level, regardless of race, regardless of disability, and regardless of fitting into the stereotypical image of what a ballerina looks like. Its production runs Dec. 8-10 at Methodist University’s Huff Concert Hall.
Ann Clark Crummie founded TDTF in the 1950s. She opened up board positions to parents of dancers attending any studio in Cumberland County. Her goal was to connect and support young, local dancers. In the ’70s, Crummie found her passion project for the group with “The Nutcracker.” Though she passed away this May, her legacy is alive and well.
The only requirement for participation in “The Nutcracker” is that the child be enrolled in a dance class somewhere in the county. “We just accept people from everywhere,” said TDTF Artistic Director Leslie Dumas. “We buy all the costumes for the kids. … A lot of kids don’t get to participate in a recital or something (like that) because costumes cost so much. … But if they’re in a dance class, they have shoes and tights already, so they come to The Dance Theatre of Fayetteville and don’t have to buy anything else.” The TDTF board pays for everything by holding two fundraisers each year.
Fayetteville native Tara Herringdine, owner of Cumberland Dance Academy in Hope Mills, is the lead choreographer. She began dancing with Crummie at the age of 5. “I am now 44 and still teaching and trying to expose children to the art of dance,” she said. “I began dancing in ‘The Nutcracker’ at age 6, back in the ’70s. I started as a mouse and ended up dancing all the major roles. Now, teaching and choreographing for the company is my way of continuing its legacy.
“The unique quality with our ... performance is that The Dance Theatre of Fayetteville uses no guest artists. Every role in our (show) is performed by locally raised dancers that attend our local dance studios.”
Also unique to TDTF’s “The Nutcracker” is that many of its local dancers are also gymnasts. Dumas owns Leslie’s Dance Academy, which is located within CountrySide Gymnastics. The young gymnasts, some of whom have qualified for and won national competitions, are required to take two dance classes per week to supplement their training. Dumas provides those classes. “Adding unique elements such as gymnastics and tumbling ... brings more dynamics to our show,” Herringdine said. “For some of the more lively dances, such as the Soldier Doll and The Russian Trepak, gymnastics makes for a high-energy, fun, crowd-pleasing performance.”
This year, there are about 80 dancers in the production. The bulk of them come from Dumas’ and Heringdine’s studios. The homegrown talent is comprised of 7 to 18-year-olds as well as college students who return to dance in their favorite show. Primary roles include Jadyn Spitler as Clara, Brandon Turner as the Prince, John Fleshman as Drosselmeyer, Mikela Singleton as the Snow Princess and Ashlyn Williams as Dew Drop.
This year’s production is dedicated to Crummie and will feature some of her original choreography. Beth Heisel, Becca Fazekas and Thomas McGill also contributed choreography. “(Crummie) was a traditional dance teacher; however, she always thought out-of-thebox,” Herringdine said. “She was very creative in her work and brought a unique flair to her choreography. … She made people fall in love with the art of dance.”
Showtimes at Huff Concert Hall are Friday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 10, at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door for adults, $5 for those 18 and under and free for children 4 and under. Call (910) 850-6363 to reserve your seats.