Twenty-eight dancers from Darien will grace the stage of "The Nutcracker" ballet, presented by the New England Dance Theater at New Canaan High School in early December. From young angels twirling across the stage to high school dancers mastering challenging steps and solo performances, students from all of Darien's schools will take center stage in the ballet.

At the forefront will be Caroline Schau, a Darien High School senior and a member of the elite NEDT, the pre-professional company of New England Dance Academy. Schau will shine in not one but three roles as a Snow Fairy, Dew Drop and Marzipan in the Land of Sweets. She will be joined on stage by 27 Darien dancers in elementary and middle school. These ballerinas will perform as Angels, Mice, Bluebells, Ginger Cookies, Bon Bons, Candy Canes, Soldiers and Party Scene children.

The Nutcracker, a classical two act ballet based on the story by E.T.A Hoffmann, follows the enchanting journey of young Clara, who receives a Nutcracker as a gift on Christmas Eve. In her vivid, come-to-life dreams, her Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince, who leads her on a special voyage through an enchanted forest to his Palace of Sweets where she meets the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy and the people of the Land of Sweets. This year's production features seniors from surrounding towns in lead roles. Olivia Bochicchio of New Canaan, who started dancing at NEAD as a seventh grader, stars as Big Clara Both Erika Jensen of New Canaan and Schau will be featured as Snow Queen and Dew Drop Fairy in the Waltz of the Flowers. Julia Foster, a Wilton senior, will perfom the role of Lead Flute and Marzipan. The role of Little Clara will be performed by Severn Davies, a Wilton resident. Virginia Horne, a professional teacher and ballet dancer, will dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

In its 26th year, NEDT's performance of "The Nutcracker" ballet is popular in Fairfield County. With large sets, elaborate costumes and professional dancers from New York City, this production will be performed Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 4 p.m. The 11 a.m. performance on Saturday, Dec. 3, is specifically geared to children. It's one hour and features a "meet and greet" and photo opportunity with the principal dancers.

Tickets for Saturday's 11 a.m. performance are $15 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. Tickets for all the other performances are $25 for adults and $15 for children and seniors. To purchase tickets ,visit www.neadance.com. Attendees can also buy tickets via cash or check at the door prior to each performance. All performances are reserved seating.

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