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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Pennsylvania Ballet: The Nutcracker By George Balanchine

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

On December 23, 2009, I attended The Nutcracker at The Academy of Music. What an amazing experience! The Nutcracker, a favorite holiday ballet, is about a young girl named Marie. The ballet opens on an Christmas Eve at the Stahlbaum house. The setting is festive and the danicng will surely put you in the holiday mood. One of the party-goers, Drosselmeyer , a toymaker and godfather to Marie and her brother Fritz, gives Marie a beautiful Nutcracker as a gift. Her brother Fritz then becomes very jealous of Marie’s present and breaks the Nutcracker ,but Drosselmeyer repairs it by using his almost magical handkerchief. After the party guests leave the Stahlbaum home, Marie falls asleep under the Christmas tree with the Nutcracker in her arms. She has a fantastic dream where toys become larger than life.

The opening scene is absolutely magnificent! The set design is to die for. It is beautifully put together and so realistic that the audience feel like it is inside of the story itself. Also, the children dancers play a key role in the ballet. More than 20 children dance their hearts out in this production. They always bring cheer and amusement to the audience members throughout the performance! The costumes were so fun and festive! The put me in the Christmas spirit immediately! My favorite costume in the opening scene is the costume worn by one of the little boys who attended the party. He wore a blue sailor suit.

The next scene starts. The Clock strikes midnight and weird things begin to happen. Marie begins to shrink and the Christmas tree begins to get larger. The toys under the tree magically come to life and the room quickly fills with an army of mice, which is led by the Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. This is followed by an intense one on one battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker wins in the end. The scene closes. This is one of my best-loved scenes because of the MASSIVE
Christmas tree and the army of mice. As soon as the Christmas tree started to grow in size, I was blown away by the size and grandeur of the tree. This was totally unexpected. Also, when the army of mice and the Mouse King invaded the stage, I was thrown back by how life like the heads of the mice looked like. It was thrilling and exciting at the same time to see the mice travel the length of the stage.

The next scene starts. The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Marie on a journey to the land of snow. This is a beautiful forest scene where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes. At the end of this dance number a snow like substance begins to fall from the stage’s roof. The snow is so realistic! What a Winter Wonderland!

In the next scene, The Prince escorts Marie to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of dances. This celebration of dances included: Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Candy Canes, Marzipan Shepherdesses, Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles, Dewdrop flowers, and last but not least The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. I just adored the dance of the Candy Canes. The costumes for this number were right on point and very Christmassy! The lead dancer, Jermel Johnson ,was extremely talented and received much applause from the audience.

In the last scene, Marie awakes from her dream and finds herself by the tree with her Nutcracker.

The curtains then close and re-open and the dancers come out to bow before the audience. This was a truly beautiful performance put on by the Pennsylvania Ballet! From the set designs to the costumes ,everything was done to perfection! Without a doubt, this is a must see holiday event that children and adults are sure to enjoy!

To get your tickets for the Nutcracker or other upcoming events by the Pennsylvania Ballet, just visit its website at: or call 215-893-1999! The Nutcracker will be performed until December 31, 2009 at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust StreetsPhiladelphia, PA 19102.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Great Art Gallery in the Neighborhood-Come to Open House

There are some books and movies and places that after experiencing them once, that one time is more than enough. You have no desire to revisit them. But, there are some things and places your soul almost craves-you need to visit them again and again. One of these kinds of places for me is LaReine Nixon’s art gallery.

Home Is Where The Art Is is a full service art gallery located at 5150 Hazel Avenue, in West Philadelphia. Though Ms. Nixon represents many artists and does custom framing and restoration, it is her own artwork that my family and friends are the biggest fans of.

I especially like how she portrays young people and I like how her perspective is both local and global. I also appreciate how she conscientiously chose to locate her gallery in a residential neighborhood where its residents, especially children, could see artists in action and examples of creative work. She is a model businesswoman and artist; an example to emulate or just be inspired by.

Above are a few of my favorite paintings by Ms. Nixon. Her talent and her concern for humanity clearly shine through. I urge my readers to encourage their parents to visit Ms. Nixon’s gallery. She is always so gracious to visitors and loves talking about art and its process.

You may visit any day by appointment, but Ms. Nixon is having a special open house on Sunday, December 27 at 2:00. For more information call 215-476-9638.

Home is Where The Art Is; Fine Art and Custom Framing
5150 Hazel Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19143
* The Paintings' Names are :
Mali Blues
In the Shade
Windows to the Soul
Casualty Of War
Africa I Am

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quadruplets Accepted at Yale

When my mom shared this story, I just smiled-big time!!! Here is Kenny, Martina, Ray and Carol Crouch. They are quadruplets from Connecticut who all won admission to Yale University under its Early-Admission Program. Here’s the link to read more about them and how amazing they are. Bravo!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

National Constitution Center Offers Winter Camp

For parents looking for a unique way to keep kids active in mind and body this winter break, the National Constitution Center is offering a new winter camp session, Growing Up, American Style Camp. This interactive experience provides children ages 6-14 with the opportunity to learn what life was like for kids growing up in America throughout history.

Growing Up, American Style Camp runs from Monday, December 28 through Thursday, December 31, 2009, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. An optional extended day program from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is available for an additional fee. Registration costs are $45 for members and $50 for non-members. Registration is due by Monday, December 21,2009. You may call 215.409.6700 or email at for more information.

Campers will discover what everyday life was like for children in America throughout the Colonial, Civil War, Progressive, and Civil Rights eras. Through a variety of activities, including soap making, old fashioned games, a costume runway show, and etiquette classes, campers will learn how often children bathed, what they did for fun, how they dressed, how they were expected to behave, and more. Campers will also discover how kids have helped shape our nation’s history. From working on the family farm to fighting for our country’s independence, kids have been dancing to the beat of their own fife and drum for centuries. Campers will even take a journey back in time to experience a school day with the Little Rock Nine and march beside Martin Luther King, Jr. as he delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch Street, on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. Its website is

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rokia Traore-Give A Listen

Rokia Traore is a singer from Mali. Her voice captures what is beautiful and fragile and inspiring about Africa. Her sound is definitely different from what most of your ears are programmed to receive. Shake your head and give a listen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letters About Literature Contest

Sorry for the long silence, but I’ve been very busy with my schoolwork. I’m back and happy that the winter break is soon approaching.

I’ve read the most gut-wrenching books this past trimester. The kind that stretches your mind and makes you really wonder about the greatness of human beings and how low and terrible we can be. Two such books that I read which explored the Holocaust were Elie Wiesel’s Night and Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. After reading these books, I had many questions and comments for the writers. I had personal insights I wanted to share with them. I wanted to just hug them and let them know that their experiences and the books they wrote about them have made me want to be even a better person, a kinder person and a person who challenges head on any intolerance. There are opportunities for me and for you to share with a writer how much his or her book has profoundly influenced us.

The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book invites students in grades 4-12 to write a personal letter to an author describing how that author’s work changed their view of themselves or their world. Works may include fiction and nonfiction books, short stories, poems, essays or speeches.

Six national winners will be chosen from three different grade groups, and winners not only will earn cash prizes, but also a $10,000 Reading Promotion Grant for the school or community library of their choice.

The deadline is soon. December 12, 2009. For more information go to