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New Directors Bring Fresh Magic to Rochester City Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ Tradition

Photo credit by Erich Camping

The Rochester City Ballet (RCB) is adding a never-before-seen twist on a classic tale with this year’s highly anticipated “The Nutcracker” ballet. For the first time in RCB history, newly appointed co-artistic directors, Shannon Rodriguez and Megan Kamler, are set to both direct and perform in this beloved holiday tale.

Rodriguez and Kamler bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the show. Rodriguez has been a member of the Rochester City Ballet since 2011, and Kamler since 2015. Both are excited to create a new generation of ballet lovers while retaining the magic and whimsy of the long-standing tradition. Responsible for the overall dance and outreach programs of RCB, Rodriguez and Kamler provide leadership and guidance in the areas of artistic performance, vision, and modernization.

Originally established in 1987 by Timothy M. Draper as a student-based company, the Rochester City Ballet is the only professional dance company in New York State outside of New York City. It was Draper’s unique vision to bring performing arts to Western NY and to give local aspiring artists the chance to study world class ballet and dance without leaving their own backyards. In truth, Draper always had Rochester in his heart.

Photo credit by Thomas Rodriguez

With this passion and determination, the Timothy M Draper school evolved into what is now the Rochester City Ballet. The concept was twofold. According to Rodriguez, “Timothy Draper founded the school when he saw that there was no professional ballet school in Rochester; here dancers would have a chance to dance professionally with the RCB.”

By doing so, Western NY has been able to retain local talent and attract and recruit highly skilled dancers from all over the country. Recently the Schubert Foundation acknowledged the Rochester City Ballet for versatility in dance in 2017.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has played an essential role in the “The Nutcracker” tradition with the Rochester City Ballet for generations. This partnership allows sugar plum fairies, angels, and snow queens to come to life before the audience’s eyes as they transport to the land of the four realms. Performers and viewers are equally inspired by this magical and ethereal experience.

Photo credit by Thomas Rodriguez

“For me, I think it’s fortunate for us to be with the RPO. The feeling we get from being around live music complements the whole experience,” Kamler says.

Of course, no “Nutcracker” performance would be complete without the right Clara. She is the heroine of this fantasy she creates in her mind after receiving the nutcracker as a gift for the Christmas holiday. After a Christmas party, Clara goes to sleep and glides through the four realms of the Nutcracker experience. Starting with the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Land of Sweets, Shiver’s Land of Snowflakes, then moving on to the Land of the Flowers, and finally reaching the Land of Amusements. Two young local actresses were chosen for the part of Clara this year.

“I think Shannon and I are both excited to reach out to younger actors, so we’re creating a new generation of ballet lovers and instilling that love of dance,” Kamler says. The production has over 100 children from Monroe to Livingston County, Canandaigua to Batavia. The directors agree that the “The Nutcracker” was a “huge part of our memory growing up,” and they look forward to carrying on the tradition.

Photo credit by Thomas Rodriguez

The RCB makes it possible for audiences of all ages to enjoy the wonder of this beloved holiday classic. Treat yourself or someone you love with the gift of “The Nutcracker” this holiday season.

For ticket prices, event show times, and location details, please visit the Rochester City Ballet’s website at:

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