Kasey Hogeboom and Elizabeth Safaryn have earned their roles through their commitment to dance since they were young girls.
For more than two decades, the South Jersey Ballet School has put together performances of the famous ballet, “The Nutcracker.” This year, in its 25th anniversary production, two teenage Moorestown residents, Kasey Hogeboom and Elizabeth Safaryn, will take the stage.
Hugeboom’s dance career began at age 4 when she began training at Marcia Hyland Dance and Arts Center in Mt. Laurel. Here, she took one ballet class a week, but found herself searching for increased strictness and higher intensity.
“When I was 10 years old, I saw the New York City Ballet production of ‘The Nutcracker’ and instantly wanted to be a part of a performance like it,” Hogeboom said. “I also wanted to be able to dance like the professionals that I saw in the performance.”
Upon conducting research on alternative ballet schools nearby that put on productions such as “The Nutcracker,” she found a number of schools, but there was something about the South Jersey Ballet School that stuck out to her. At age 11, when she first went to the studio to audition for a previous “The Nutcracker” performance, that love grew even more.
Ever since, Hogeboom has taken a variety of classes at the school including ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop, character, tap and musical theater. She normally takes classes from Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays, dancing for approximately 16 to 18 hours each week.
In her fifth year dancing with the South Jersey Ballet, the 15-year-old Moorestown High School sophomore will be performing in the roles of Dew Drop and as the Snow Queen.
“It is very important to me to be performing in the 25th anniversary ‘Nutcracker’ because I am proud to dance in the South Jersey Ballet name,” Hogeboom said. “The director, Andrea Duffin, puts on such an amazing production that I feel honored to be part of it, especially for an important anniversary.”
Also honored to be one of just dancers in this performance from Moorestown, Hogeboom admits her fellow hometown dancer, Safaryn, helps her feel more relaxed and to have fun during stressful situations. She said this is because Safaryn is such a high-spirited person.
“I did not start dancing with Elizabeth until I became a trainee at South Jersey ballet, which was when I was 12 years old,” Hogeboom said. “I am so happy to have the opportunity to dance with Elizabeth because dancing next to such a great dancer makes me work harder.”
Similar to Hogeboom, Safaryn first developed an interest in dance as a young girl, around 5 or 6 years old. After her parents took her to see the ballet, “Giselle,” she fell in love with the dancers’ grace and beauty.
“They danced so effortlessly and almost floated across the stage. After seeing the ballet, my mother signed me up for a few basic classes at a local high school where I did ballet and tap class once a week,” Safaryn said. “Once I became more serious with dance, I decided to enroll at South Jersey Ballet School when I was in the first grade.”
Although she used to participate in tap, ballet is what stuck with her throughout the years, and she now additionally dances in modern and jazz classes. After dancing with the South Jersey Ballet for almost 12 years, she typically takes four or five classes a week in addition to her five-hour-long Saturday rehearsals for “The Nutcracker.”
“Performing in the 25th anniversary of ‘The Nutcracker’ is so special to me because I remember my first year in the show as a clown, and now I have grown up to much bigger roles and have made more memories over the years,” Safaryn said. “This year, I will be performing as Kissy Doll, the Arabian Lead and as a part of the Snow and Flowers Corps.”
The 17-year-old Moorestown junior explained the most enjoyable part about this year’s ‘Nutcracker’ is trying new roles. Although she has never done any kind of partnering before, she is excited to be the Arabian lead and dance with her partner, Devon, in all four shows.
Safaryn believes people should come to see these performances of “The Nutcracker” because South Jersey Ballet’s production is truly different from others, while a cast of all ages, all of which play different roles. With such a large, diverse cast, she too is excited to be one of just two dancers from Moorestown.
“Kasey and I have danced together in ‘The Nutcracker,’ spring shows and in the annual recital,” Safaryn said. “She and I have definitely gotten closer over the years, and we probably would not really know each other as well as we do if it wasn’t our connection through dance.”
Both Moorestown teens dream of dancing in their future. Whether it be for a New York City dance company or through taking dance classes in college, both see dance as an important element of their life and one which they would hate to live without.
All performances of the South Jersey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” will take place from Friday, Dec. 16 through Sunday, Dec. 18 at the Voorhees Middle School, located at 1000 Holly Oak Drive. For a full list of performance times, or to buy tickets, visit https://www.tututix.com/client/southjerseyballet.