An Evolution of Holiday Tradition

Melissa Gelfin (L) and Cervilio Miguel Amador (R)
Melissa Gelfin (L) and Cervilio Miguel Amador (R)

The Cincinnati Ballet brings its best to the Toledo Ballet’s 79th annual Nutcracker

This holiday season, Cincinnati Ballet Principals Melissa Gelfin and Cervilio Amador will star in the Toledo Ballet’s 79th annual production of The Nutcracker. The performance, a fusion of long-standing local holiday tradition and modern choreography, stars this incredibly skilled and driven duo as Clara and the Nutcracker Prince.

The Nutcracker, one of the most popular ballets of all time, is performed during the holiday season, often with collaboration among various ballet groups. The first act Toledo Ballet’s rendition will feature traditional choreography, while the second act will showcase choreography by the Cincinnati Ballet, providing a fusion of the comforts of tradition and the excitement of a vibrant new performance.

Gelfin and Amador are both excited to take part in this storied production, as Toledo’s Nutcracker is one of the oldest continuous annual productions of this famous ballet. “I love the tradition and the good feelings it brings,” says Amador. “I’m excited to bring my work to new places, new audiences, new people… I want to inspire people by showing that this is what the human body can do.”

Two worlds collide

While these two dancers make an impressive team, their routes to the stage present contrast. Gelfin’s mother signed her up for ballet classes at age 3 in Philadelphia.

The tipping point between doing ballet for fun and taking it on as a profession came after watching a production of The Nutcracker that her brother took part in. Seeing professionals take this art form to a new level touched her deeply. By age 13, Gelfin was committed to being a professional dancer.

Gelfin continues to diving deeper into her craft, joining the Cincinnati ballet in 2014 as a new dancer, promoted to senior soloist in 2017 and Principal in 2018.

Amador got his start at the Vocational Ballet School in Camagüey, Cuba, before moving on to Cuba’s prestigious National Ballet School–the largest in the world.

Amador describes the experience of this intense eight-year education as what drove him forward to overcome challenges in this competitive environment. He danced as a corps de ballet and a demi-soloist with the National Ballet of Cuba before joining the Cincinnati Ballet as a soloist in 2004. He became a senior soloist in 2005 and Principal in 2006, and since then has had an extensive number of lead roles in full-length ballets.

Behind the scenes

“Our goal is to make every performance look effortless,” explains Amador.

Professional ballet dancers put an incredible amount of time into their craft. Morning warm-ups are followed by six to seven hours of rehearsal each day. Performers must be technically competent dancers and convincing actors to delight audiences. Auditioning for roles can be highly competitive. Meeting requirements that are specific to the roles, on top of technical skill and acting ability, is crucial to success.

“Ballet takes incredible discipline. You’re striving for perfection while knowing that perfection is impossible, never satisfied but always trying to push,” says Gelfin. “We push ourselves further every day, and we still surprise ourselves… [The] beauty of ballet is that you can do more.”

The Toledo Ballet’s 79th Annual Nutcracker features local talent with the score performed by the Toledo Symphony under the direction Alain Trudel. Gen Horiuchi’s choreography is supplemented by artistic director Lisa Mayer-Lang and Marie Vogt.

2pm & 7pm on Saturday, December 14.
2pm on Sunday, December 15.
Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.
$26-$62 | 419-246-8000 |