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Children's director rehearses local
performers for their "Nutcracker" roles.
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Special to the Jewish News
udith Molina brings lots of
local color to the Cincinnati
Ballet's performances of The
NUtcracker. She is children's
rehearsal director for 84 young
dancers auditioned and chosen from
aspiring stars across the state as part
of the company's outreach program.
Molina, director of the Institute of
Music and Dance at Marygrove
College, works closely with Jo Ann
Cusmanos, a studied dancer now
dean of continuing education and
community services at Marygrove.
A newly renovated dance studio on
the Detroit campus provides practice
space, where the children are divided
in two groups to rotate appearances.
All have had stage experience.
"We learn the choreography and
then teach it to the children," says
Molina, 50, of Troy, who helped
Cincinnati staff select dancers as
part of the audition process and uses
videotapes to refresh her memory.
"We rehearse every Saturday and
Sunday for about 10 weeks so that
all the young performers will show
The junior dancers, whose ages
range from 7 to 18, include a repre-
sentation from those who danced
The Nutcracker last year. Although
many talented children from past
performances tried out again this
season, a number of them had to be
excluded because they grew too big
for the available costumes.
Casting was based on how well a
youngster could do demonstrated
steps, retain routines and perform all
that was shown.
"Although this ballet has elements
of Christmas, its appeal is more uni-
versal than that," Molina says. "It's
about the spirit of all the holidays
that come at this time of year, and
it's appropriate for all children
because the story is about young
people and the production has dif-
ferent dance elements, beautiful
music and a feel-good impact."
Preparing young Nutcracker
dancers to work with professionals
has been a continuing commitment
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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra
used to produce the ballet with
Dance Detroit, long known for its
association with the college. After
the symphony decided to discontin-
ue the program, the Michigan
Opera Theatre took on its own pres-
entation initiative, contracted with
the Cincinnati Ballet and kept chil-
dren's preparations at Marygrove.
"I think it's important for the
community to have local children
perform in these productions of The
Nutcracker," Molina says. "This
experience provides a great introduc-
tion to ballet, with a smorgasbord of
dance styles and emotions, from
happy to scary. It's also easier for the
company to have us work with the
young people here."
Molina studied dance at the High
School of Performing Arts in New
York City, where she grew up. She
went on to train with the Cincinnati
Ballet and returned to New York to
work with Merce Cunningham, the
New York City Opera and the
Chamber Dance Ensemble.
The move to Michigan came in
1976, after her former husband,
bassist Stephen Molina, was hired by
the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The couple's three children —
Claire, Lauren and David — were
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Judith Molina: "This experience
provides a great introduction to
ballet, with a smorgasbord of dance
styles and emotions.
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