Towson’s Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet company will perform their tenth Nutcracker Ballet on December 17th and 18th at Stephens Hall on the campus of Towson University. Tickets start at $15.
This year’s Saturday evening performance will feature a special reunion cast from earlier years. Some of the reunion cast goes back to the first year of the performance – ten Christmases ago – when MYB was a small group of only 67 dancers, including the 8 adult volunteer dancers. By contrast, this year’s cast includes 144 dancers from 102 different families. There are 14 adult volunteer dancers with 25 returning alumnae dancers in the reunion performance. 15 of the original cast members from Mid Atlantic’s first Nutcracker is in this year’s Saturday evening performance.
Nadia Letnaunchyn, Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet’s founder, began dancing just before she turned three and has been dancing ever since. As a young dancer, she at a local dance studio in her hometown in New Jersey, but around age 8 or 9, shifted her focus more intensively on ballet. Truly committed, she travelled a hour or more several days a week to study with some of the best teachers until she found her dance “home” much closer to where she lived, where she danced through middle and high school.
One of her first Nutcrackers, now some thirty years ago, was with a company called Children’s Ballet Theatre (now Ballet NJ). She then danced in the Nutcracker with Hamilton Ballet Theatre through high school. As a dance major at Goucher College, she performed in dance concerts, but missed the Nutcracker during the holidays. While teaching dance at Parkville HS, she staged “A Community Nutcracker” for six years, which brought together students from the elementary, middle and high school levels on one stage. This was the first ballet experience for many of the students involved, several of which have gone on to dance professionally.
“Very simply put, The Nutcracker is Christmas to me,” said Nadia. “It signifies everything I love about the holiday season. Seeing the joy our dancers bring to the audiences puts me in the Christmas spirit.”
When Nadia returned to Goucher to pursue her Masters of Arts in Arts Administration, MYB was a concept that she created for a class assignment in New Ventures in the Arts. When it came time to complete an internship for a nonprofit arts organization, Nadia was granted permission to create an organization instead. MYB was born.
Nadia wanted to create a place where dancers not only had access to quality dance education and performance opportunities, but were able to do soon a nurturing, healthy, fun environment. At the time, she was also teaching dance at Parkville High School and many of those students expressed an interest in taking classes outside of school. Many of those students were her first students at MYB in the small single-studio space ten years ago. Through the years, however, the dance constituency has broadened and now includes many students from Parkville, Towson and White Marsh — but several others come from as far as Pikesville and Harford County as well. The number of students has more than doubled, as MYB has seen steady growth over the years.
All of the returning dancers over the years have always performed the Nutcracker at Towson University. Many of the youngest dancers in the cast are now in high school or are about to enter. When they first started ballet instruction, some were as young as 4 and 6.
“I have watched them grow up and have grown with them. Time flies so quickly. Yesterday the baby ballerinas were mice and today they are our Clara and Kissy Doll.” Nadia reminisced.
find out more about MYB
Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet and Center for Dance Education
1703 East Joppa Road
Baltimore, MD 21234