This weekend, Greater York Dance will present its 14th annual “Nutcracker.” And this year, artistic director Lori Pergament has changed and updated every scene, with new choreography in nearly every dance.

“I like to keep the performance fresh, not static,” Pergament says. “This is a big year of change.”

Even after so many years staging the ubiquitous Christmas ballet, Pergament has no trouble finding inspiration. She starts with watching each rehearsal and performance closely.

“This year and every year, I sit in the back of the theater with the sound people, taking notes on what could be changed, what could be different, what I want to improve,” she says.

Pergament has the freedom to change the choreography because although the studio uses Tchaikovsky's traditional “Nutcracker,” they don't use the commonplace George Balanchine choreography. They use Pergament's, which evolves as she's inspired each year.

“I try to get to see other ‘Nutcrackers.'” She laughs. “And I try to ignore it completely for a few months so when we pull it out, it's fresh.”

The people she's choreographing for have an effect, too.

“The dancers themselves inspire me. We always have new dancers growing, aspiring to new roles,” she says. “They inspire me, I hope I inspire them.”

Pergament's favorite changes occur in party scene.

“It's the opening scene, where Clara gets the nutcracker (and) the story begins to be told. There are a lot of choreography changes,” Pergament says. “The executive director and I worked on it together with all the dancers. It was a great relief when all the changes were done.”

Clara: Allison Smith plays Clara this year. The 18-year-old West York Area High School senior has been dancing since she was 3.
The Nutcracker
Carrion Lover-Lilly, 14, of Spring Garden Township, and other dancers rehearse for "The Nutcracker" at Greater York Dance. The show will be at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. ( Bil Bowden photo)
Her first “Nutcracker” appearance was as a little girl in the party scene.

“I thought that it was amazing, being around so many people doing something to bring so much joy to others,” Smith says.

Now, stepping into her dream role, Smith maintains that sense of wonder.

“I still think it's pretty amazing. A hundred people perform for two days. Being Clara gives me an even greater joy,” she says. “I get to be an inspiration for girls and boys.”

Choosing Clara is another step in Pergament's yearly Nutcracker evolution.

“Once I choose a Clara, it takes me down a different path. Allison is a very experienced dancer, dancing since she was 3, now 18. I was able to challenge every aspect of her role,” Pergament says. “She's a fantastic actress — that's why we cast her, (because she) acts as well as she dances.”

For those who expect Clara to be younger, Smith's size will help with the illusion.

“Allison is very teeny tiny,” Pergament says. “You have no clue she's 18; she's as teeny tiny as our 12-year-olds.”

Pro guests: This year's guest artists are members of Balleteatro Nacional De Puerto Rico.

“I'm very excited about the guest artists from Puerto Rico, Marena Perez and Daniel Ramirez,” Pergament says. “Every year we get guest artists from around the world to inspire the current dancers. And the audience enjoys the level of professionalism.”

The Greater York Dance and Midstate Ballet “Nutcracker” is not a recital.

“We have dancers from all walks of life, some dancers who take classes 20 hours a week. The cast goes as young as 3 (and) then we have adults,” Pergament says. “Performers of all ages for audiences of all ages ... it's a happy event, on a professional level, enjoyable for everyone, even the dads.”

“The Nutcracker” is a group effort, Smith agrees.

“Lori is definitely inspiring,” Smith says. “She gives us ideas, we give her ideas and we get great performances out of that.”

See the show

Greater York Dance presents “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St., York.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $45 for adults and $18 to $35 for children. To get tickets, visit www.strandcapitol.org, call 846-1111 or visit the arts center box office.

See more photos from rehearsal in the York Dispatch photo/media gallery.

— Reach Michelle Denise Norton at news@yorkdispatch.com.