And visions of Sugar Plums danced in their heads…


Jessica Riniti ’14 rehearses a lift with her Cavalier backstage at Westport Academy of Dance’s 32nd annual Nutcracker performance this weekend.

Tonight marked the closing performance of Westport Academy of Dance’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” bringing holiday sweetness to ballet enthusiasts all over town.

“’Nutcracker’ is by far my favorite time of the year,” says Amy Liu ’15, who performed as Dew Drop this year. “There’s just something so special about being part of it. The music, the costumes, and everything about it just makes me so giddy.”

“The Nutcracker” is perhaps the most beloved and classic holiday tradition. Though always the same story, people return year after year to be captivated by Clara’s journey to the Land of Sweets accompanied by her Nutcracker prince, where she is introduced to various divertissements. Such numbers included the dance of the Spanish, Chinese, Shepherdess, Russian, Candy Cane, Arabian, Mother Ginger and Russian.

Many Staples students attended the performance to support friends and family or just to enjoy the timeless Christmas ballet.

“I thought it was absolutely beautiful,” says Issy Pieper ’14. “All of the girls are amazingly talented.”

The production featured professional guest artists, David Fernandez, Gabriel Hyman, Vitali Krauchenka, Leyland Simmons and Karell Williams to partner with lead dancers in the Spanish, Arabian, and Russian dances, as well as in the Land of Snow and the Grand Pas de Deux.

Many Staples students participated in this year’s “Nutcracker,” as well as many young students coming up the ranks. Staples students featured in the production included Jess Riniti ’14, Amy Liu ’15, Megan Nuzzo ’15, Blair Gould ’15, Renee Reiner ’15, Andrea Frost ’15, Harley Kowalsky ’15, Sam Sheppard ’16, Jane Schutte ’16, Miranda Saunders ’16, Lulu Busk ’17, Elizabeth Rhoads ’17, Abby Suppan ’17. Reniti performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Sugar plum is probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life, but so rewarding,” she says. “When the music swells, it’s like something takes me over and I don’t even think about what I’m doing, I just do it.”

This year’s performance marked a bittersweet time for Riniti, as it was her 13th and final year dancing in “The Nutcracker.”

“It was so incredibly sad, but those girls are my family and they did some very nice things for me to make my last one special,” she says. “It was more than I could ever hope for.”