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The Nutcracker in Danbury

Ariel Rudiakov, Music Director and Conductor of the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, discusses the music of the Nutcracker Ballet.
Ariel Rudiakov, Music Director and Conductor of the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, discusses the music of the Nutcracker Ballet.


This story was written by Mike Medeiros, Abigail Lebron and Nasir Amarah.

            The Danbury Symphony Orchestra’s production of the Nutcracker Ballet is as interesting a story as the ballet itself.

            In 1967 the Women’s Club of Danbury presented famous ballerina and ballet instructor Dorothy Burdette with a box holding the entire 500-plus page musical score of the Nutcracker Ballet.

            Burdette then showed the music to the director of the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, John Burnett, and together Burdette’s ballet student’s and Burnett’s orchestra students put on the first production of the show with a one-night performance at Danbury High School. The production went on to become an annual community tradition over a weekend.

            “The marriage of dance and music is what this whole story is about,” said Nancy F. Sudik, executive director of the Nutcracker Ballet.

            Sudik, 65, became involved with the production in 1979 as a french horn player in the orchestra.

            “It began very small, there was only one performance, and it was free,” Sudik said.

            In 1997, current Artistic Director Arthur Fredric became involved with the production and brought the creative aspect of the show to new heights.

            “Once he took over, the popularity absolutely exploded,” Sudik said.

            The current production, which features 231 dancers and a full 60 piece orchestra, was originally composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1892.

            “It’s about awakening feelings you’ve never felt before,” Sudik said. “It’s really a coming of age story. The little boys love the soldiers and the fighting and the little girls want to fall in love like Clara.”

            However, this year the soldiers in the play will by carrying swords instead of guns out of respect for the Newtown tragedy.

            “We decided not to have gunshots on stage this year,” Sudik said.

            Scott Benson, Orchestra Director at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, has performed in the last five seasons in the ballet as a cellist.

            Benson said that playing in the ballet helps him recall what it feels like to sit in a rehearsal as the musician instead of as the conductor.

            “It helps me keep the perspective of the ‘other side of the podium,’” Benson said.

            “It is easy to find oneself becoming cynical around the holidays, as we are urged to spend money rather than save memories,” Benson said. “But that cynicism evaporates upon the first note of the overture, and it is so much harder to find again after the last note of the finale. I hope that my playing helps do the same for the members of the audience who hear us, and I look forward to sharing many more holidays with the Danbury community."

            This year performances will be at Danbury High School, Clapboard Ridge Road., Rt. 39, Danbury, on Friday Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday Dec. 13 at 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

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