For Jen Silver, the upcoming production of “The Nutcracker” will be bittersweet.
The 17-year-old Lenape High School senior will perform the South Jersey Ballet Theatre’s production for the last time.
“I’m really excited but I’m also sad because it’s my last one as a company member and performer,” Silver, of Mount Laurel, said.
Dancing ballet since she was 3, Silver fell in love with it when her parents signed her up. She has been in the South Jersey Ballet Theatre for 10 years.
Silver said she loves everything about dance, especially the constant challenges to get better. She also loves all of her dance teachers.
While not sure where she’ll go to college, Silver said she will continue dancing.
She also dances modern and jazz but has found ballet is the foundation, the best way to learn technique and choreography.
“It just instills the work ethic,” Silver said. “There’s never a moment in dance where you can do less than 100 percent.”
She said ballet has also given her drive for other things.
Silver said performing in front of a crowd “is amazing.”
“The fact that you get to go out there and share what you’re passionate about with other people, I just love it,” she said.
Gia Swipes, 18, is a senior Paul VI High School and fellow company member.
She has also danced since she was 3 years old. Swipes said that, when she was little, she used to love to twirl around in front of a mirror and was a ballerina for Halloween.
“So it just seemed natural,” she said, noting the most valuable things she has learned from dance are perseverance, courage, and commitment.
“You can never take a day off just because,” Swipes, also of Mount Laurel, said. “You have to be so committed and dedicate so much time to this.
“You’re always striving to get better,” she added. “You’re never perfect at anything.”
While she said performing in front of an audience is “exhilarating,” “It takes a lot of courage to go out on stage.”
Swipes also said the greatest challenge provided by dance is striving for perfection.
“It has taught me work ethic,” she said. “If I can handle this I can handle anything.
“When you make a commitment to something you can’t back out,” Swipes added.
She wants to go to Neumann University where she hopes to study nursing and continue dancing.
Swipes said dance has helped her learn time management, a skill she can use as a nurse.
South Jersey Ballet Theatre will present its 20th annual production of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 16, 17, and 18 at the Voorhees Middle School theatre on Holly Oak Drive in Voorhees. Show times are: Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2:30 p.m. For information and tickets, call the box office at 856–309–8282 or visit the website at http://www.southjerseyballet.com/next-event.aspx. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors 62 and older, and $12 for children 12 and under. Group rates are available.