Local dancers dedicate production to late husband

Zoe Greszler • Jun 7, 2016 at 5:00 PM

More than 100 area dancers will perform in the Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy production of “The Adventures of Alice” this week.

Selections from “Swan Lake,” “Star Wars” and “Grease” will be included in the production, which has performances scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Norwalk High School Ernsthausen Performing Arts Center.

The academy puts a show on every year. However, the larger productions, such as this one, are a more rare occasion due to the amount of preparation and practice involved. 

This will also mark a special performance for many of the dancers as they prepare and perform for the first time without a key member of the academy’s family -— Kniffin’s husband of 44 years, David, who died last year.

Many may have known him from his community involvement as he served as the Republican county chairman for 20 years before current mayor Rob Duncan replaced him.

“He worked hard at that, too,” Cynthia said. “He worked hard at everything he did.

“We’re dedicating this performance to my husband because he was such a big help here,” she said. “He’s really missed. He helped with the scening and lighting. Everyone misses him. We’re really struggling without him. He was a big, big help with the performances.”

Cynthia said the center would not even exist if not for her late husband, who had a passionate belief in his wife.

“We’ve had (the studio) since 1974 and David was the one who wanted me to buy it even before I did,” she said. “My former teacher’s husband (who owned the place at the time) called and said, ‘Do you want to buy studio?’ ... He said we should get it and told him, ‘Yes.’ He loved ballet and loved the arts.

Cynthia said her husband was with her every step of the way as they created Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy and as they had each performance and all of the time in between.

“He was the kind of person that tried to work very hard,” she said. “He worked so hard with everything here and with everything he did here. We all miss him.”

For this special occasion, Kniffins hopes she can get the community involved.

“I’d love for the whole community to come out and see it,” she said. “I would love for the community to support these young people and all of their acheivements. Even coaches and dads, they would be surprised at these athletes’ abilities.”

“The Adventures of Alice” follows the young English girl through her many excursions through the wonderous land. The tale is portrayed through costumes, scenery, music and dance and was originally conceived by Cynthia in 1980.

This year’s dances were choreographed by her daughter, Amy Bond, with music selected by Kniffin. Alice is portrayed by Darian Brooks of Norwalk, who weaves her way in and out of each scene. She dances with the obstinate twins, Tweedledee and Tweedledum — played by David Riegel of Bellevue and Jimy Foreman of Vickery. She soon ventures into the live flower garden to find Tiger Lily with Princesses Rosella and Daisietta overseeing their little ones, danced by Madelon Kilbury and Catherine Tomczyk of Huron and Michaela Jackson of Sandusky.

On her way to the queen’s croquet grounds she encounters the white rabbit, Claira Doll of Norwalk. Soon the procession into the queen’s croquet ground begins.

Main characters, the King and Queen of Hearts, promise to entertain all in a humorous pas de deux danced by Keegan Livingston and Francesca Holmes of Norwalk, the saucy duchess, Camille Jackson of Sandusky, and the regal Kings and Queens of Spades, Diamonds and Clubs, portrayed by Hannah Bond of North Fairfield with JD Smith of Norwalk, Rebecca Starkey with Andres Valle of North Fairfield, Macey Phillips with Clay Nickoli of Norwalk.

Add to this some mischievous gardeners, wayward hedgehogs and fidgety little rabbits and we have a charming outrageous time, laced with color, humor and a touch of splendor.

The production also includes selections from “Swan Lake,” which is a tale of forbidden love. The swan maidens are doomed to never marry by an evil sorcerer. Young Prince Siegfried, in search of a wife, falls in love with the beguiling Odette, Queen of the swan maidens, and is tricked into pledging his love to the sorcerer’s daughter, the conniving but beautiful “black” swan, Odile. Odette and Odile are portrayed by Rebecca Starkey and Hannah Bond of North Fairfield with Michael Huddleston of Huron as Prince Siegfried.

In scenes from “Grease,” a talented cast of 25 dancers portrays teenage life in Midwest America in the 1950s. These kids will lift you out of your seats with fun and excitement expressed through the pure joy of dance.

The cast is led by Hannah Bond, North Fairfield, as the naïve then seductive Sandy with Andres Valle and Rebecca Starkey also of North Fairfield as bad boy Danny and naughty Cha Cha. Darian Brooks and Brandon Boetticher of Norwalk portray beauty-obsessed Frenchy and Doody, with Macey Phillips and JD Smith also of Norwalk, as Rizzo and Kenickie. Other area cast members are Norwalkians Francesca Holmes, Sara Scavuzzo, Evan Ackerman, Anthony Cefalu, Kaden and Keegan Livingston, Clay Nickoli and Darren Raymond, Camille and Michaela Jackson of Sandusky, Maddie Kilbury, Catherine Tomczyk, Michael and Joey Huddleston of Huron, Rachel Bond of North Fairfield, Haylee Bock of Berlin Heights and Maggie Centa of Milan.

“Star Wars” selections incorporate jazz, tap and lyrical dance styles and music and dances that are fun and familiar, welcoming some who may not normally think of attending a dance performance. 

The Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy’s June performance is a 40-year “Firelands” tradition.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 419-668- 4622 and will be available at the door or from dancers. Tickets also may be purchased in the EPAC lobby between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. today and Wednesday.

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