A New Spin on a Holiday Classic

–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: 01.03.17

Rabbi Sam Weinstein of Temple Shomer Emunim in Sylvania performs as Mother Ginger during the Toledo Ballet’s Nutcracker. —Photo Courtesy of Brooks Photography
Rabbi Sam Weinstein of Temple Shomer Emunim in Sylvania performs as Mother Ginger during the Toledo Ballet’s Nutcracker. —Photo Courtesy of Brooks Photography

Annually, I take the matriarch of our family to see “The Nutcracker,” presented by the Toledo Ballet. The longest running production of the holiday classic is in its 76th year. Miraculously, the talented artistic and school director of the Toledo Ballet, Lisa Mayer Lang, choreographer Gen Horiuchi and a posse of talented performers, manage to continually give the production a new spin.

This year was quite unique and brought national attention to the production by casting a priest, a rabbi and an imam in the role of Mother Ginger. Father Ron Olszewski, retired president of St. Francis de Sales High School, Imam Telal Eid, of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo and Rabbi Samuel Weinstein, of Temple Shomer Emunim, symbolically unified to become a living example of peace and acceptance.

It isn’t the holidays until I see my mother weep during the dance of the Snow Queen and Snow King. Once again, visiting artists, Prima Ballerina Mary Carmen Catoya and Principal Dancer Renato Penteado, both of Miami, Fla., did not disappoint in dazzling the audience. It was “a pass the tissue” moment for my mom and a priceless moment for me when seeing her moved by precision and beauty.

It was fun to learn that Sylvania was well represented in the production. Among its cast members was Kristi Delverne, a second-generation Toledo Ballet dancer, and her three daughters Sophia, Nikki and Amanda. The oldest Delverne daughter, Amanda, is studying dance at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Another Sylvanian, Cheryl Walter, who is a faculty member at the Toledo Ballet, was excited to wear one of the new gowns when she performed in the The Party in scene one.

The Toledo Symphony, conducted by Adron Ming, honored the music of Tchaikovsky with its superb playing. In fact, the orchestra was so phenomenal that it was difficult to not hold them responsible for the elderly woman sitting next to me humming along to EVERY note.

I always enjoy hearing the traditions that many people have surrounding the annual production. I know one family who had their daughters wear matching holiday dresses until the preteen years brought about the need for self-expression. A neighbor of mine, originally from China, brings chocolates in delicate small porcelain cups. She gives them to her children during the show as her grandmother did for her when they went to the ballet in her former country. Maybe having your mom “lose it” in the waterworks department during Act I-Scene III, in the Land of Snow, pales in comparison, but it is tradition none the less and one that I hope to experience for years to come.