Confessions of a Sugar Plum Fairy
by Erin Williams
Special to The Star
Dec 02, 2012 | 3476 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dancers from the Alabama Ballet perform as part of the Knox Concerts presentation of George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
Dancers from the Alabama Ballet perform as part of the Knox Concerts presentation of George Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
slideshow
When it comes to holiday traditions, there are few as sweet as “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” in George Balanchine’s version of “The Nutcracker.” And yet its memories can also be bittersweet, as dancer Jennifer Ferrigno can attest.

The Alabama Ballet dancer will be performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy today in Anniston for the annual Knox Concerts presentation of “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s definitely one of those things that we’ve done since most of us were kids,” she said. “I think if it wasn’t the holiday season, maybe we would feel a little bit more animosity towards the ballet, but it’s filled with a lot of nice memories.”

Ferrigno entered the dancing scene as a pre-teen, much later than most pre-school-age ballerinas.

“I come from a very competitive sports family, which is funny because I’m definitely the black sheep now,” she said. Eventually she convinced her mom to let her take a few different types of dance classes.

Ballet became a more serious path for her in high school, when she started as a student at First State Ballet Theatre in Wilmington, Del. It was there, surrounded by professionals, that Ferrigno’s mind began to spin with possibilities.

“They would tell us all these stories of dance careers and what they kind of envisioned for us. Even for the other girls and boys in my class, we all were just enamored by them,” she remembered. “It was more their love affair with dance … made me kind of fall in love with it.”


Slideshow: George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker"



Since joining the Alabama Ballet in 2006, Ferrigno has been able to fill her dance card with many roles. She bounces between performing and instructing students twice a week at Samford University, where she is on staff.

“A lot of us have second jobs,” she said. She also teaches ballet and pointe classes to kids at a small school in Birmingham. The exercise of teaching dance – not just performing – has helped Ferrigno learn even more about her craft.

“It does give you some perspective, I feel, on how to relate to people, how to relate to these kids. And then it also inspires them to, hopefully, someday be a ballet supporter,” she said. “It’s not only important to teach them within the studio, but to teach them how to love the art form.”

In addition to “The Nutcracker,” Ferrigno has taken the lead in “Swan Lake” as Odette/Odile and holds the distinction of being one of three women in the world to dance as The Maiden in famed Broadway and stage choreographer Agnes de Mille’s “The Other,” a pivotal work that focuses on the emotions surrounding life and death. It was the final work de Mille created before her death in 1993.

“It’s a very special ballet, and I was very honored to be chosen. Getting to do any kind of big role is really a gift,” said the 26-year-old. “I feel fortunate because I’m still fairly young to be able to experience these principal roles.”

For now, though, Ferrigno will admit that dancing the role of the enchanted Sugar Plum Fairy is “the cream of the crop.”

“After a performance, you see all the little girls come back, little kids, and you know, they’re just so excited to meet you, she said. “You’re a magical fairy to them. We are real-life princesses, in their eyes.”

Erin Williams is a multimedia journalist currently based in St. Louis.

‘The Nutcracker’

What:
Alabama Ballet dances George Balanchine’s ‘Nutcracker,’ presented by Knox Concerts.

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Anniston Performing Arts Center

Tickets: $20 for adults, $12 for children, $30 reserved seats.

Also: There will be many different nutcrackers and ornaments for sale in the lobby, along with baked goods. Residents are welcome to shop even if not attending “The Nutcracker.”
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Confessions of a Sugar Plum Fairy by Erin Williams
Special to The Star

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