From the time she was a little girl, ballerina Samantha Pecan dreamed of becoming the Sugar Plum Fairy. That dream is coming true for her this month in South Jersey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“I think the Sugar Plum Fairy is kind of like the symbol of ‘The Nutcracker’ besides the Nutcracker itself,” said Pecan, who will be performing in her 12th performance of the show. “It’s the best role you can have. All of the little girls, that’s what they aspire to be.”
The Eastern Regional High School senior was ecstatic when she was given the part, but it didn’t sink in right away that her vision of becoming the Sugar Plum Fairy had turned into reality.
“It was kind of surreal when I got it,” she recalled. “It didn’t hit me for awhile.”
Between the demands of this role, including rehearsing with a male partner, taking five classes a week and school work, Pecan has a full plate. She had danced onstage with a partner the past two years, and having that experience was a relief for her heading into this role.
“That was important for me going into it, already knowing how to partner,” Pecan said. “You have to have the stamina to go through it because the sugar plum sequence is a lot longer.”
She said practicing with a male partner in the past presented its challenges because it’s not just about herself on stage.
“The hardest part about it is letting go of what you are used to as a girl, where you are always in control,” she said. “Female dancers, especially when they haven’t had a lot of experience dancing with a partner, they will do everything in their power to save their movement and execute it all on your own. In partnering, it’s just not possible. The difficult part is giving up that control and putting trust into your partner.”
Between the dance’s long sequence, the difficult choreography that goes into it and the riveting music, Pecan said all of it combined is beautiful and draws the audience in.
“Everybody really enjoys the performances because the music is so suspenseful and so strong,” she said. “It’s supposed to be the climax of the show, showcasing the most difficult dance moves. The choreography is masterfully put together. When somebody really takes the time to think about the choreography that would match the level of complexity that the music demands, it can sort of have an effect on the audience that isn’t matched.”
Being a part of the 25th anniversary production and having been in almost half of those “Nutcracker” productions, Pecan called this year very special and bittersweet knowing this is her last “Nutcracker” performance with the South Jersey Ballet.
“Being part of the 25th anniversary is very special because I have a strong connection with my director (Andrea Duffin Conway) and seeing the fact that she’s been doing this for that long is amazing. She’s taught me more than just ballet. In the studio, you learn more than just steps. You learn how to respond to your teachers, and you learn how to collaborate with people. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s one of my greatest role models.”
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.