​Bringing ‘The Nutcracker’ to Life

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
Nearly 100 dancers from Sewanee Dance Conservatory and Alabama Youth Ballet Theater (AYBT) took to the stage Dec. 1, for two performances of “The Nutcracker.”
Ashley McManamay, who has run the Sewanee Dance Conservancy for the past three years, said this year’s Nutcracker production was the second one she has led.
“At the conservatory, we have about 30 children in the production ranging from ages 5 to 18,” she said. “Each dancer is required to take a dance class with me so they know the basics.”
Casting for the show was back in September, and for the last three months, the dancers at the conservatory have been preparing for the Dec. 1 show.
“We teach the choreograph, and then we rehearse it and run the dance over and over,” she said.
McManamay and David Herriott, who formerly ran the conservatory, partnered on the event. Herriott brought 75 dancers from the AYBT in Huntsville to perform with Sewanee’s 30 students.
Herriott made the drive from Huntsville every Sunday for rehearsals with the conservatory students. Though the two groups of dancers don’t get to rehearse together until the day of the show, Herriott said the show is always a success.
“After casting, we started rehearsing right away, and I came up on Sundays every week to rehearse. The weekend of the show, we rent the truck and fill it up with the sets and costumes, and we try to get everything pretty much set up,” he said. “We don’t rehearse together, but they all knew the dances—it was just a matter of putting them in their places and going over everything together. It worked well.”
McManamay, who has been dancing since she was 4-years-old, said teaching young dancers and seeing their love of dancing grow is a reward on its own–seeing the performance come together is just a bonus.
“I try to remember way back when what it was like when I started dancing –I loved my teacher, and I really think I have some sort of influence on them wanting to keep dancing year after year,” she said. “It’s so rewarding getting to see them on stage in our recital. They are so proud of what they have learned throughout the year and it shows on stage. It brings me so much joy knowing I’ve been a part of their love for dance.”