McGirr, Knopp to dance at Smoot Theatre

PARKERSBURG — Velma Schrader is happy that two of her former students, Emma McGirr and Christian Knopp, will be returning home to perform in a Christmas holiday program at the Smoot Theatre.

Schrader Youth Ballet of Parkersburg, with Velma Schrader as founder, teacher and artistic director, will soon be winding down a busy holiday season on Saturday, Dec. 29 with its annual performance of “The Nutcracker (Clara’s Dream),” part of the “Winter Dance” production, at the Smoot Theatre. The program includes “Les Patineurs” (The Skaters).

This season the youth company will feature professional artists and Nevada Ballet Theatre principal artists Emma McGirr and Ben Tucker, who will dance the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in the Grand Pas.

Dancing the role of the Nutcracker prince for the local production will be Parkersburg Catholic High School graduate Christian Knopp. A dance major at The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he is now completing a two-year internship as a trainee with the Pensacola Ballet.

McGirr is a native of Little Hocking and a graduate of Warren High School as well as an alumna of Schrader Youth Ballet. She graduated magna cum laude from The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

McGirr has danced professionally with the Louisville Ballet, Eugene Ballet Theatre and currently is performing as Clara in the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” This past summer she performed as a company member of Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance, a touring company based in Asheville, N.C. At Nevada Ballet Theatre, she performed in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil at the Mystere Theater.

Tucker is originally from Evart, Mich., and trained with Grand Valley State University and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. He danced with Richmond Ballet as an apprentice, where he earned the Malcolm Burn Award from the Kip Kephart Foundation. He performed with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet during its European Tour performing in several principal roles, and joined Ballet Tucson in 2011 as a Principal Dancer.

This Nutcracker season, he alternately performs as the Nutcracker and the Snow Prince with Nevada Ballet Theatre. Both McGirr and Tucker also dance with “ballet120,” a professional dance company dedicated to online videos and shows through social media outlets.

Drosselmeyer will be portrayed by local actor David B. Prather, member/actor/director at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, “We Were Birds,” from Main Street Rag Publishing.

Playing the role of Clara this season is 14-year-old Anna Martin, the daughter of Breck and Holly Martin of Vienna, and student at Parkersburg High School. Martin attended the five-week ballet summer intensive at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts this past summer.

The Nutcracker story is presented by major and small civic dance companies all over the world as an annual tradition. Although the story may vary based on the community in which it is being presented, the story of young Clara falling asleep with her Nutcracker doll and dreaming of the Sugar Plum Fairy, waltzing flowers, falling snow and the Russian, Chinese and Spanish dancers is a tradition understood no matter where in the world it is presented.

Performed for the first time in 1892, with the same music Tchaikovsky wrote for the ballet, the classic story enchants audiences every holiday season. The Schrader Youth Ballet production was choreographed by the late Duncan Noble and Velma Schrader.

“Les Patineurs” is the short story of a Victorian ice skating party. With music by Giacomo Meyerbeer, it was first presented in 1937, and was one of the first televised ballets. The local production was choreographed by Teri Seier Moore.

Schrader Youth Ballet Company members include Ana Collins, Adeline Smith, Isabelle Bradley, Abigail Kuhlman, Haileah Parker, Ashlynn Taylor, Charis Mace, Nora Augenstein, Arwen Chambers, Anna Martin, Serenity Sprouse and Maddie Duvall. The troupe has performed this season at the Grand Central Mall, celebrating the arrival of Santa, at the City of Parkersburg and Downtown PKB’s holiday tree lighting ceremony and will perform this Saturday at Peoples Bank Theatre as part of the theater’s Hometown Holiday Spectacular.

They also will perform selections from “Les Patineurs,” “The Nutcracker (Clara’s Dream)” and their “Schraderettes” piece on Monday at Parkersburg Catholic Elementary and North Christian School.

Tickets for the Dec. 29 performance at the Smoot Theatre can be obtained by calling 304-422-PLAY or by visiting the theater’s website. Seats are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.