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NFMAA students perform 'The Nutcracker' at Mann Hall

December 20, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

In what serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, more than 280 students took part in the school's holiday tradition, "The Nutcracker," on Friday at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Center in Fort Myers in front of a near sell-out crowd.

Fans of the classic ballet got to see the Nutcracker Prince, Clara, Uncle Drosselmeyer, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop Fairy, the Russian dancers and much more, performed by the most talented dancers at the school.

Lori Madl and Nicole Hoeberling, who directed the performance, said they were able to make some changes and tweaks to make it a better show for everyone.

Article Photos

Alex Leeds, as the Nutcracker Prince, and Emaline Thompson, as Elise, watch the Candy Flutes perform during 'The Nutcracker' ballet.


"We've been working since we got back from Irma and the students worked really hard to perfect their craft," Hoeberling said, adding the hurricane set back their auditions and on technique a little bit.

Alex Leeds played the Nutcracker Prince, while Emaline Thompson played Clara, who receives a Nutcracker as a Christmas gift and dreams that she becomes a princess.

Before they took their show to the big stage, the performers had two test runs on the NFMAA stage Tuesday in front of their peers and teachers.

Principal Tom Millins, who plays the traditional role of Uncle Drosselmeyer, explained the ballet to the students before kicking off what turned out to be two performances of the ballet.

He also said the performance at the Mann Hall allows them to fund much of what they do throughout the year.

"The money from ticket sales goes into our foundation, which is about $25,000. It seems like a lot, but when you have to pay for things, it goes away quickly. It all goes back to the kids and their programs," Millins said.

For many of the students, it's not the first time they have performed "The Nutcracker." Many of them have performed in it several times, albeit in different roles, so they have a pretty good idea of what's expected. This could be a blessing and a curse. For while they know the story, every year the bar gets raised and more gets added.

"The kids have in mind what they think specific roles should do, but we like to change things up every so often," Hoeberling said.

For the major characters, it wasn't their first big event. Bailey Sarria, the Sugar Plum Fairy, was in her fifth "Nutcracker" performance, moving up the ladder from partygoer, flower girl and an angel.

"It's amazing to play her. It's such a rush to perform it. I felt the pressure, but I got through it," Sarria said. "Being in it so often helped, but it makes it harder because you want to live up to the expectations."

"There's a lot of pressure, but once you hot the stage it goes away. You just know how to perform," said Michelle Dodig, the Spanish Lead, in her third ballet. We have an idea what to do, but since it changes annually, you still have to find your way."

"We get bigger roles as the years go on," said Hannah Blasetti, who played an angel and the Dew Drop Fairy, in her fifth "Nutcracker." "Seeing everyone come together to do one big thing is my favorite part of the whole experience."



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