Salem dancer to play lead role in 'The Nutcracker'

Emma Losolfo of Salem practices the role of Clara for this year's production of "The Nutcracker" by The Greater Salem Ballet Company. 

SALEM — At age 3, Emma Losolfo of Salem stepped into her first dance class. One of her earliest memories, she says, was dancing with her teacher and friends during her birthday celebration at the studio.

This Saturday, the now 13-year-old is playing the lead role of Clara in the sixth annual production of “The Nutcracker,” performed by more than 100 local dancers from The Greater Salem Ballet Company and A Performing Arts Academy.

“When we’re in ‘The Nutcracker,’ the practices and spirit are so fun,” said Losolfo, a student at Austin Preparatory School. “We put a lot of work into this, and I hope everyone enjoys it.”

This December marks the ninth year the teen has performed in a production of the classic ballet. For the role of Clara, Losolfo says some of the duet choreography featuring lifts was challenging. “You’re constantly dancing,” she said of the first act of the ballet.

Dance teacher Seanna Chmura, co-director of The Greater Salem Ballet Company and co-owner of A Performing Arts Academy, said acting is just as important as mastering the choreography of playing Clara. “She fit the role,” Chmura said of her student. “She’s a sweet, happy girl.”

With 102 students and half a dozen adults performing, this is the largest crew on record, says Chmura. Her students will dance alongside two professional soloists from the Festival Ballet Providence, playing the roles of the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“It’s a tradition for almost every person who is involved; we all think of this as the start of the holiday season,” she said. “The snow is falling on the stage. The tree is growing. It’s magic.”

Each year, Chmura says the 21/2-hour ballet production adds new additions including this year’s digitally printed growing Christmas tree backdrop. “Everyone can find something that keeps them interested,” added Chmura, like the high-energy sword fight to the elegant dance from the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“We love to be able to give back to the community,” she said of her company’s yearly performance. “They can still get the feel of ‘The Nutcracker’ at a fraction of the cost.”

Chmura, a dance teacher for more than two decades, founded A Performing Arts Academy in Salem with her business partner, Susan Byrne. The dance school shares a home on Swampscott Road with The Greater Salem Ballet Company, a nonprofit whose roots trace back to the 1974 dance company The Deane School of Dance, which was owned by Chmura’s grandmother, Helen Deane Bassett, and dancer Georgia Deane Young.

Teaching ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop and tumbling, Chmura describes her studio as “a community, family oriented establishment.” Many parents of her students, like Losolfo’s mother, Michelle, danced with the company as children. “There’s a real family culture here. That, to me, is really important.”

The Greater Salem Ballet Company production of “The Nutcracker” is on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Lynn Auditorium at noon and 4 p.m. Tickets are available online at lynnauditorium.com, by phone at 781-599-SHOW or in person at 3 City Hall Square, Lynn.

Staff writer Alyse Diamantides can be reached at 978-338-2660 or adiamantides@salemnews.com.

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