Two Spotlight Academy Dancers in A.C. Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’

Dec 19, 2018
Supplied Photo

Two young dancers from Spotlight Academy of Dance in Tuckerton are performing in the Atlantic City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” closing this Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Strand Theatre in Lakewood. Both Chloe Dudonis, 13, of Manahawkin and Nyla Tweer, 12, of Tuckerton say their passion for dance is their escape from the pressures of everyday life.

Dudonis has been studying dance since she was 3, Tweer since she was 4. They both are proficient in all styles – Dudonis’ specialties are tap and ballet, and Tweer’s are acrobatic and lyrical – but their demi-pointe and pointe skills have landed them in roles as soldier, big angel and Pulcinelle with the ACB’s touring holiday production.

Since their auditioning and landing the parts in September, a demanding weekly rehearsal schedule – on top of their regular dance schedule and school responsibilities – has required a major commitment from the girls and their families.

“It’s a very expensive sport to do,” Dudonis said, and Tweer agreed. But it’s both sport and art form, as the dancers use their bodies to tell a story, Tweer said. Their job is “to make it look graceful,” Dudonis added, which is a lot harder than it appears.

Dudonis had heard about the A.C. Ballet opportunity from other dancers and was interested in pursuing it, largely because of the bonds of friendship it offered. “The girls are really close together as friends, really supportive,” almost like sisters, she explained.

Practices with the professionals in the company have been extremely valuable in helping the young students feel prepared when the big moment comes.

For Tweer, the experience is not just an honor – it’s career training. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. Moreover, the A.C. Ballet gives her “a good push,” challenging her beyond the basic instruction she receives at Spotlight Academy.

While this year is Tweer’s fourth time doing “The Nutcracker” with the ACB, for Dudonis, whose prior experience was limited to recitals and competitions, it’s been an important first. Learning from different choreographers, taking correction from a professional ballerina – it’s all been “a big benefit” to her.

Tweer said dance provides an outlet for her emotions. Dudonis said she hopes to continue expressing herself through dance “as long as I can.”  —V.F.

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