‘Nutcracker’ performances likely last for local dancer Ashley Schroer

‘Nutcracker’ performances likely last for local dancer Ashley Schroer

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They say some people can do it all. Ashley Schroer actually has.

Or nearly so.

The Wooster High senior who first laced up dancing shoes as a 3-year-old has been performing in the Wayne Center for the Arts’ semi-annual productions of “The Nutcracker” for about a dozen years. Over that span she has at one time or another donned the costume of nearly everything one can in the famous holiday ballet, often all at once.

“Let’s see,” Schroer said when prompted to recall her various cast positions. “I’ve been a China Doll, a Peppermint Swirl, two soldiers, a Candy Cane, a Russian Nesting Doll, a Party Guest and a Snowflake, and a Flower.”

That it?

“And a doll in the party scene, another Snowflake, Clara’s Mom and now the Sugarplum Fairy.”

So maybe not every character, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. In some performances, which began when Schroer began as a 7-year-old and included one year performing with the Cleveland Ballet, she played as many as four parts.

“She has been probably every character on the stage at one point or another,” said Sara Starr Brink, executive director of the Wayne Center for the Arts. “Her parents have always, always been super-involved as volunteers. I was speaking with them the other day, and they actually told me this is it — this is the last show — and for one of the shows, they’re actually going to sit in the audience for the first time and watch the show from beginning to end and not from backstage.”

Schroer will make her sixth and likely final appearance in the Wooster production next weekend when the troupe puts on a trio of performances over two days. She is heading next year to either Ohio University or Slippery Rock University to study dance and English.

If it is indeed her last hurrah in “The Nutcracker,” Schroer is going out in style. She is playing a starring role as the Sugarplum Fairy, as well as Mrs. Stahlbaum and a Snowflake.

“I’m going to miss it a lot,” Schroer said. “I’m majoring in dance in college, which will help. But I’m not going to a college where they do ballet productions. It’s too far away that I won’t be able to come back and guest in it. I’ll miss being with my friends and all the choreographing and all the rehearsals.”

Schroer is among 40 dancers age 3-18 who will take part, along with 25 parent volunteers and 10 crew members.

The performance this year also will feature 11-year-old Kinsey Sipos of Edgewood Middle School in the role of Clara. Other featured performers include Wooster High senior Caleb Singer-Holden in the role of Drosselmeier, College of Wooster senior Ivan Akiri playing the Nutcracker Prince and Cavalier, and Brooke Manson, 14, of Edgewood Middle School as the Mouse Queen.

Nobody currently associated with the show seemed sure how long the Center for the Arts has been putting on “The Nutcracker,” but Brink said the productions date back at least three decades.

“It’s got some legs on it,” she said. “‘The Nutcracker’ in this community has been a long-standing tradition. What’s special about this is these are young people in our community who have worked incredibly hard and have really achieved something special. They’re looking forward to having that special moment in the spotlight. It’s artistry and dedication and hard work that’s really inspiring.”

Schroer, when not doing “The Nutcracker,” has performed over the years in musicals like “Footloose,” “Mamma Mia” and “Elf.” She said she usually gets wrangled into those based on her dancing ability.

“I have this joke with my friends,” she said. “They get cast in the leads; they all are so talented. I get cast as a dancer because we don’t have any other dancers in my school.”

Schroer got hooked on dancing when her parents took her as a 3-year-old to see the arts center’s production of “The Little Mermaid.”

“They had to take me out after intermission,” she said. “I couldn’t sit still. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and didn’t even blink.”

It took a few years before she made her way in to a “Nutcracker” performance, and she was equally addicted once she started doing that. She remembers watching the then-lead dancer, a high school student who to 7-year-old Schroer was larger than life.

Working in the big kids studio, the younger cast members got their first opportunity to dance with their elders.

“All the big kids were watching me, and I didn’t want to mess up,” Schroer said. “I just remember how good they were.”

Fast-forward 10 years and there was Schroer, in the midst of preparing for this show next week, and much as she had done a decade earlier, the young performers were watching Schroer and her contemporaries prepare.

“I heard one of the little kids say, ‘She’s so good,’” Schroer said, noting the completion of the role reversal. “I wanted to just stop and go over and give her a hug.”

Sometime between her first and last performances — she estimates it was when she was about 11 — Schroer, ranked in the top 10% of her class with a GPA that tops 4.0, started to realize she was a pretty good dancer and that it was something she might want to do beyond her school years.

“I didn’t really realize it like, ‘Oh, I’m a little kid, and I want to be a ballerina,’” she said. “It took a while. Eventually, after a couple of different summer productions going into eighth grade, I was like, ‘Oh, well, if I can get into that, this is maybe something I can do.’”

The Wayne Center for the Arts performances of “The Nutcracker” will be Dec. 17 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at the facility at 237 S. Walnut St. in Wooster. Tickets are available at www.wayneartscenter.org or by calling 330-264-2787.