“The Nutcracker” has been a holiday tradition in the United States for decades, and few companies have more of a claim to it than The Folkine Ballet Company of Oneonta.
The company, under the direction of Donna Decker, will perform the famous ballet, with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, at the State University College at Oneonta for the 25th year this weekend.
Decker’s roots with “The Nutcracker” and ballet go back further — much further. Her mother was Irine Folkine, who choreographed the ballet in 1957, and her grandmother was Alexandra Fedorova, a prima ballerina at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Fedorova performed in the premiere of “The Nutcracker” in St. Petersburg, and she later staged one of the first versions of the ballet ever seen in the United States.
“My mom did ‘Nutcracker’ for 50 years, and she died two years ago in December, right before ‘Nutcracker,’” Decker said Thursday.
“So I inherited her first-act drop, which I always coveted. It’s a beautiful house drop. I do know that a lot of my former students are coming back for my 25th year, and that’s the one thing that I know is going to surprise them — that the house is different. It’s much more elegant than the original.”
Decker’s 25th year as director isn’t the only milestone this year. The performances Friday and Saturday will be the last for Slawomir Wozniak in the Oneonta “Nutcracker.” Wozniak, who has danced with companies in Poland and other European countries in Europe, will have appeared in 23 of the 25 Oneonta performances of “Nutcracker,” Decker said.
During that time, the production has evolved, she said.
“Sometimes, we just want to change; other times something is worn out so we have to do something about it,” she said. “You know, it’s funny you’re asking me this, because when you first asked I thought nothing has changed. Now, I realize a lot has changed.”