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Swingtime For The Nutcracker

A jazz version of a classical ballet is teaching young dancers that there’s no limit to styles of music or their talents.

Adam Schnell believed professional costumes would improve the quality of the production. Telegram Boy – Patrick Schlitt; Mouse Queen – Tori Quigley; Adam Schnell; Clara (blue dress) – Lauren Lines; Headmistress, Taylor Callahan; Nutcracker – Sean Castro; ; Rum Fairy – Sydney MacMillan.

Adam Schnell believed professional costumes would improve the quality of the production. Telegram Boy – Patrick Schlitt; Mouse Queen – Tori Quigley; Adam Schnell; Clara (blue dress) – Lauren Lines; Headmistress, Taylor Callahan; Nutcracker – Sean Castro; ; Rum Fairy – Sydney MacMillan.

“I have this son …”  These four little words led to a journey that would one day bring a jazz version of The Nutcracker Ballet to the children’s stage at Vero Beach. The words were spoken by Joanie Schnell in 2001 to Linda Downey, Education Director at Riverside Children’s Theatre (RCT). The son is Adam Schnell, choreographer and librettist of The Nutcracker: In Swingtime! – now in its second year of production.

Adam Schnell grew up in St. Albans, Vt., about 12 miles from the Canadian border. “St. Albans is a lot like Vero Beach,” he says. “They both have a small-town vibe.” But only one comes with below-zero temperatures. “I was away at private school,” Adam says. “My parents were done with Vermont winters, so they started a scouting trip.” In 1998, they began their search for a better climate in sunny Florida, eventually finding their way to Vero Beach.

The following year, Adam graduated high school as a ballet major from the prestigious Walnut Hill School for the Arts near Boston. He accepted an offer to dance with the Sarasota Ballet of Florida. Most ballet companies shut down in the summer, but his mother’s conversation with Linda Downey in 2001 helped him get a summer position at RCT; among other duties, he taught master ballet classes and choreographed the main summer production.

“This was my first summer gig,” he says, “and it was great. For about eight years straight, I would come here every summer for a month to work with the kids.”

Adam was – and continues to be – absolutely committed to ballet. As far as he’s concerned, learning ballet can help all dancers improve their skills, whether it’s for tap, jazz or even hip-hop. He learned this first-hand as a teenager when he entered a hip-hop competition in which the judges recorded their critiques for the dancers. Adam listened and heard the judges agree: “This kid has something, but he has to study ballet.”

Read the entire article in the November 2011 issue