December 17 and 18, the Wilmington Ballet will once again be presenting the timeless holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” at the Dupont Theatre (click here for details on tickets and times). This year’s performance will be highlighted by the guest starring appearance of two internationally-acclaimed ballet stars, Abi Stafford and Adam Hendrickson of the New York City Ballet. TSD recently had an opportunity to catch up with Stafford and Hendrickson and learn more about their upcoming visit, central Pennsylvania’s uncanny ability to produce ballet stars and how in a world of Kardashians there is still a market for people with real talent.
TownSquareDelaware: We’re honored and delighted you will be coming to Delaware to perform in the Nutcracker with the Wilmington Ballet. How were we so lucky?
Abi: We both have known Barbara (Barbara Sandonato of the Sandonato School of Ballet and an original founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet, who collaborated on the performance with the Wilmington Ballet) since we were kids growing up in Pennsylvania. She taught at our school in the summers.
Adam: Yeah, she was great.
TSD: Have you spent much time in Delaware before?
Adam: none aside from driving through.
TSD: How many times over the course of your career have you done the Nutcracker, and what makes it so timeless?
Abi: I’ve done the Nutcracker since I was six.
Adam: Me too!
Abi: So it’s always been part of our holiday tradition.
Adam: I think Nutcracker is so timeless because even little kids that are just beginning to learn ballet can participate in their schools productions, and since it’s the holiday season it’s a perfect time for their families to come out and watch them perform.
TSD: Both of you are from central Pennsylvania. Is there something special about that part of the country that produces world-class ballet dancers and great quarterbacks?
Abi: I think there’s something in the water!
Adam: if I remember correctly, we had the choice of either becoming a farmer, a mechanic or a dancer. We both chose the latter.
Abi: But seriously, I think the fact that it’s a small town, it helps provide the individual attention that students need to have successful careers.
TSD: You both also started in ballet at a very young age (6). For the young, aspiring stars here in Wilmington, would you tell them they need to focus exclusively on ballet from a very early age or can that single-minded focus come later?
Adam: In the same way that playing soccer will help you play baseball, I think that a well- rounded training can only help. However, since ballet is so rigorous in its discipline, eventually a student will need to choose if ballet is going to be the main goal. And from there they will need to spend at least 95% of their energy on that specific training.
TSD: You live and work in the cultural capital of the US, if not the world. With so much to compete with for people’s time, imaginations and wallets, how would you say the world of ballet and dance is doing these days?
Abi: I’m pretty optimistic.
Adam: I think that most art forms have a longevity that protects them from issues such as other new cultural interests as well as less than perfect economies. As long as dance companies are willing to grow and be flexible to the changing world around them, there really should be no worries. People will always have the need to be entertained and enriched. And we will always be ready to provide, even if it seems that society is more interested in which Kardashian is getting divorced this week.