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Cherished ballet gets a local twist with Posey’s production of the Northport Nutcracker

Village by: Joanne Kountourakis, December 11, 2021

The Posey Dance Company of Northport, pictured here at dress rehearsals, puts on its sold-out production of a “Northport Nutcracker” this weekend. The show, in its seventh year, is adapted to highlight the Northport Village community. All photos by Janette Pellegrini.

Elsa Posey was just 13 years old when she began teaching classes at the Northport Village dance school she opened in 1953. This weekend, the semi-retired founder and current artistic director of Posey School of Dance celebrates her seventh annual production of the “Northport Nutcracker Ballet,” a special version of the traditional ballet adapted to highlight the Northport Village community.

But the Nutcracker wasn’t always part of Mrs. Posey’s curriculum.

“Mrs. Posey had it with the Nutcracker when I first met her. She wanted nothing to do with it,” said Kimberly Wager, who has been with Posey School for 15 years and is now its director, as well as one of the school’s ballet teachers. With some convincing from Kim, however – and a sign from Mother Nature – Mrs. Posey had a change of heart. She describes the moment it all came together in this year’s ballet program:

When Kimberly Wager and I decided to produce a “Nutcracker Ballet” for Posey Dance Repertory Company, we knew we wanted the traditional ballet as performed in the late 1800s in Russia, and recreated by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1952-3. We also knew that we wanted something special, something that would make our “Nutcracker” special.

Then it snowed. If you have been in Northport Village when it snows you’ll know what I mean when I say it inspired me to do a “Northport Nutcracker.” The Victorian homes on Main Street slowly turned white, the gazebo in the Village Park under snowfall – that is where I wanted our Snowflakes to waltz!

Mrs. Posey and Kim consulted with the Northport Historical Society to find the names of families living on Main Street in 1893, the year the building at 57 Main Street, where Posey School still operates today, was built. The ballet takes place at the home of the Sammis family on Main Street, and its first scene is set in a beautiful snowstorm as the Villagers begin to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Every year the production gets a little bigger, and better, said Kim.

“We couldn’t spend a lot of money [that first year] because we didn’t have it, so we did whatever we could and we just kept building it year by year,” she said. “Now we have the professional sets and scenery and costumes. We try to get better every year.”

Posey School of Dance focuses primarily on ballet, though there are classes for jazz, tap, modern, and contemporary dance as well. All of the dancers in the Northport Nutcracker are members of Posey’s school community who auditioned for the Posey Dance Company of Northport (the nonprofit that organizes and runs the Northport Nutcracker Ballet) production.

“We don’t hire the professionals because our dancers are so close to looking like professionals,” said Kim. She describes Posey as an education-based school and says that, in addition to the school’s philosophy, students also learn dance history, choreography, composition and technique. This kind of “full dance education” is similar to what students would find in higher education, Kim said, and the lack of recitals is a welcomed feature of the school.

Not every student in the school is a member of the Posey Dance Company of Northport, but you must be a school member to take part in the school’s productions. There is no pressure to perform in a production, but a commitment to dance is strongly encouraged; most Posey dancers practice on site three to five days per week.

With a background in dance education from NYU, Kim specializes in, and teaches, the Cecchetti system of dance at the school. She’s also in charge of all of the dance company’s productions and has been with some students since they first joined Posey at three years old. She says Mrs. Posey and the students are like family, and likes to emphasize the importance of a well-rounded dance education. “We try to keep everybody learning,” she said. “It’s the process, not just the product.”

Many students take part in outreach events and performances in the community, and some are accepted into the school honor society, with the requirement of maintaining good grades and being exemplary students outside of Posey, too.

This weekend’s production of the Northport Nutcracker will take place at Northport Middle School, as it has every year of its seven-year run, save last, when Covid required an outdoor performance at the Vanderbilt Museum. The sold-out event is made possible not just by the teachers and students, but a tirelessly supportive group of parents who volunteer, organize and help fundraise for the event. A lot of time, money and heart go into making sure the show stays true to Mrs. Posey’s original vision of a historic Northport, and the school’s standard of always improving.

“We like to imagine it is back in time in Northport with those families,” said Kim. “I think it makes everyone in Northport feel special. This is about us. This is our tradition. This is our Nutcracker. It’s not just the Nutcracker, it’s the Northport Nutcracker.”

Want to help keep the tradition alive? Tax-deductible donations can be made by check to “Posey Dance Company of Northport” and mailed to Posey School of Dance, 57 Main Street, Northport, NY 11768. All money raised goes directly back to funding this and future productions.

Speaking of future: Posey’s next performance, coming this spring, will be Alice in Wonderland. With all new choreography, it will be the school’s first time producing this show. Auditions begin January 8, 2022.

The Posey Dance Company of Northport, pictured here at dress rehearsals, puts on its sold-out production of a “Northport Nutcracker” this weekend. The show, in its seventh year, is adapted to highlight the Northport Village community. All photos by Janette Pellegrini.

The Posey Dance Company of Northport, pictured here at dress rehearsals, puts on its sold-out production of a “Northport Nutcracker” this weekend. The show, in its seventh year, is adapted to highlight the Northport Village community. All photos by Janette Pellegrini.

The Posey Dance Company of Northport, pictured here at dress rehearsals, puts on its sold-out production of a “Northport Nutcracker” this weekend. The show, in its seventh year, is adapted to highlight the Northport Village community. All photos by Janette Pellegrini.

The Posey Dance Company of Northport, pictured here at dress rehearsals, puts on its sold-out production of a “Northport Nutcracker” this weekend. The show, in its seventh year, is adapted to highlight the Northport Village community. All photos by Janette Pellegrini.