The Seiskaya Ballet production of The Nutcracker is as much a part of the holiday season on Long Island as Christmas trees and Santa sightings. Celebrating its 33rd season at the Staller Center in Stony Brook, the Seiskaya Ballet’s Nutcracker is once again an international collaboration choreographed by the world-renowned Valia Seiskaya. We spoke with Seiskaya Ballet’s Dimitri P. Papadakos about this year’s performance of The Nutcracker and what makes the show special season after season.
Danshamptons: What sets this performance of The Nutcracker apart from others?
Dimitri P. Papadakos: There are several things. First of all, this production was specifically designed for the Staller Center. We use every pipe in the house; it’s a full theatrical production from that aspect. All of the props were re-detailed by Scenic Art Studios, who have come back to match up all the drops. All of the choreography is put together to accommodate the theater, and the amount of expertise and dedication is unprecedented on Long Island.
A lot goes into this show—the costumes are simply outstanding, the performers, the music, everything. It’s that extra work that brings us to the next level. All of our special effects are first class. The mice have red LED lights in their eyes that add a dramatic effect onstage. Our battle scene actually has cavalry that comes out along with the foot soldiers, which really adds an extra spice to the production. We have smoke and dry ice, all the little details make one heck of a difference. The dancing is also, of course, simply unbelievable. We go above and beyond.
What’s your favorite moment in this year’s production?
Cory Sterns, who plays the Cavalier (and also does it for American Ballet Theater), and Elizabeth McGrath dancing together Saturday and Sunday night is incredibly exciting. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing these two are. Everybody in the ballet world is excited to watch these two dancers perform—they are just so amazing, it’s hard to put into words. These two are at the top of their game, and they are going to put on quite a show.
What surprises you about the production each year?
The matinees in particular surprise me. There is an autograph session during these performances. I think seeing the wonderment on the faces of the kids who come back to get autographs is just so unbelievable. The performers go back there and the kids just get totally into it. It’s very exciting.
The other thing that surprises me every year is sitting there and watching the level of these performers are at while onstage—you can’t believe how young they are. A lot of them are in their early teens, and you can see people’s jaws drop when they hear how old they are. There’s just something magical about watching people do something at the highest level, and when you see it in ballet and you know the type of work that is required to get to that level, you marvel at it.
Do any particular “wow” moments stand out from the past?
Well, every year I am wowed. But one year we had a girl that was playing the chocolate soldier, and in the finale the chocolate soldier does a gallop and then at the end she was supposed to do only two or three of a complex turn. She ended up doing eight, EIGHT perfectly. It just was such a “wow” moment.
After so many years and so many performances, do you ever tire of doing the same show?
We’ve been doing this a long time and every year it’s just a delight. It really is just so great. You know it’s the holiday when you are getting ready for The Nutcracker.
“The Nutcracker” is scheduled for six performances at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts: Friday, December 14 at 7PM; Saturday, December 15 at both 2PM and 7PM; Sunday, December 16 at 1PM and 6PM; and Monday, December 17 at 7PM. For more information, call the Staller Center Box Office at (631) 632-ARTS or visit www.nutcrackerballet.com.