Tina Filippelli Certo is returning to dance in the beloved holiday ballet "Nutcracker" several decades since her last performance.
Certo, of Lewiston, started dancing under the guidance of local ballet teacher Beverley Feder when she was 10 years old. She will be joining the cast this weekend for all three performances of "Nutcracker" taking place onstage at the Center for Performing Arts at Niagara Falls High School.
Now a grandmother, she will be joining her granddaughter on stage this year for the traditional holiday favorite being produced by the Greater Niagara Ballet Company, still under the leadership of Feder, the artistic director.
Certo, whose granddaughter will also be in this weekend's performance, recently shared some of thoughts about returning to the stage.
QUESTION: How many years ago was your first 'Nutcracker' performance?
ANSWER: I was one of the very first dancers way back when the company was called the Niagara Civic Ballet Company, so some 50 years ago.
Q: What did that mean to you at the time?
A: I thought that was the coolest thing that a company from Niagara Falls was doing the 'Nutcracker' and of course it was my very favorite ballet of all time, so to be able to dance in it as a young girl was a dream. I was the Dewdrop Fairy, the fairy that dances in the Waltz of the Flowers. That was a solo part. I was in my upper teens.
Q: Did you ever dance the starring role of Clara?
A: No, but my daughter Kristina did for two years about 20 years ago. My two sons were in in both of the years that she was in it. They were solders. My granddaughter, Lilly, 7, is in this production, she’s 7.
Q: Why is the 'Nutcracker' so important?
A: I believe the 'Nutcracker' should be everybody’s first ballet. It’s fun, it's a beautiful ballet and the music is phenomenal. And it’s magical.
Q: What can you tell me about your role this year?
A: I am playing the role of Mrs. Stahlbaum, Clara and Fritz’s mother. She is in all of the first act, at the party. The ballet takes place in her home. I am the hostess, if you will. I dance with my “husband” and all the adults in the first act do a dance together.
Q: Have you kept up with your dancing?
A: For a long time, no. I was busy being mom and working and not having extra time but it was always in the back of my head that I have to get back to ballet class. My friends were all going to the gym and I was saying 'no thank you, put me in a ballet class.' I don’t care how old you are, get into a good ballet class, it’s so good for your body and your mind. You can take tap and you can take jazz but ballet is different. It's the basis of all your dance forms, it trains your body for any type of dance. Once you are a dancer, it’s always in your blood. The ballet studio has always been my gym, so eventually I called Bev and said 'Give me a time. I’m coming back to class.' I don’t really think she thought I would but I did.
Q: In your ballet classes, are you doing all the things the young dancers do?
A: If you’re going to do it, you're going to go 100 percent, but when your body becomes older, it becomes a strength issue. You loose your strength but your muscle memory never goes away.
Q: This weekend, how do you think your going to feel when the curtain rises?
A: I love being on stage. Bev can tell you that. The last time I was on stage was about six years ago. I was ballroom dancing for a little while and I did a performance at Kleinhan's with one of my ballroom dance teachers. Prior to that, it had been many many years since I had been on stage. It’s a thrill. It’s not for everybody, but for me, I love it.
The 'Nutcracker' will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the NFHS Performing Arts Center, 4455 Porter Road, Niagara Falls. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors. A family pack for two adults and two children is $70. Tickets can be purchased online at www.greaterniagaraballetcompany.org or at the door.