Maybe the most creative choreography inserted into an upcoming Christmas classic includes turning the storyline just a bit like a graceful pirouette. And then changing the steps of how one character learns to see another.

Therein lies the fresh perspective of Stuart Coleman, new director of Dancers Studio Inc.’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” to be presented at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Columbus East High School’s auditorium.

Coleman, 24, a teacher at the studio when away from his full-time job as a professional performer with Dance Kaleidoscope in Indianapolis, has long dreamed of awakening his inspiration to lead the show that has been local dance leader Alma Wiley’s baby since the 1990s. In the classic tale, a young girl falls asleep to find herself in a story of a Christmas Nutcracker saving the holiday from evil forces and whisking her away to a magical kingdom.

“Often, the show becomes all about Clara,” said Coleman, sitting in the local studio on Cottage Avenue before leading one of his classes. “But we usually forget about what (possibly) happens to the Nutcracker.

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“With this storyline (in our show), the Nutcracker has more of a purpose to fulfill.”

He won’t give away too much information as a spoiler other than to say his tweaked version of the tale “ties all the (leading) characters’ relationships together. To me, if the story doesn’t make sense, then it’s just a bunch of people dancing to some really nice music.”

If it sounds like Coleman analyzes scripts and back-stories as much as dance moves, he does.

Not to mention focused and enthusiastic.

“I love his passion,” said studio director Wiley. “He’s really inspiring the students.”

Then she laughed.

“And he’s younger and has more energy than I do,” she cracked.

Veteran cast member Sonia DiOrio, who will dance in the challenging Arabian scene, has seen Coleman focus on details, details, details.

“He’s really heavy about technique and choreography,” DiOrio said. “He’ll make us run a scene over and over again until he can get it perfect.”

The Lynchburg, Virginia, native who began dancing in 2005 readily acknowledged that agreeing to direct a full-length ballet loomed as uncharted waters for him. But the more he worked with local students in classes, the more he could see himself putting all the pieces together with elements such as Susannah Lipinski’s elaborate costuming.

“Alma was very willing and very gracious to give me license to teach and to direct however I saw fit,” he said. “And that’s very rare (with outside teachers) in many dance studios.”

He has found that he connects easily with students, from preteens to high schoolers. His own high school experience seems like yesterday at Virginia School of the Arts.

“I can use pop-culture references and they can easily get what I am saying.”

Coleman has loved “The Nutcracker” since he performed in his first one — the jazzy, Duke Ellington version — as a young teen.

“There’s just something so magical about this little girl who has a dream — or maybe it’s not a dream — about her favorite Christmas present that comes to life and saves her life,” he said. “And there are comedic and theatrical aspects to it.”

Plus, he calls it a great teaching tool for dance students and creative entertainment for the public.

“Really, it’s beneficial to everyone,” he said.

Same for dance in general, as he sees it. Besides, he was dancing before he ever took classes.

“In dance, there’s just this way that the body can describe through physical movement something that really resonates with an audience,” he said. “The body can speak — and show great emotion.

“That is the mark of great dance. In ‘The Nutcracker’ with the little girl, Clara, we the audience have to feel what she feels as we go on this journey with her.”

Even if that journey takes a little detour or two.

Clara's eye-opening dream

What: Dancers Studio Inc.’s production of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker.”

When: 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday. All previously purchased tickets for a now-canceled Sunday performance will be honored at either Saturday show.

Where: Columbus East High School’s Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium, Marr Road and Indiana Avenue.

Storyline: From a story written in 1816 by E. T. A. Hoffmann in which young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.

Tickets: $15 in advance for adults, and $10 in advance for students.

Information: 812-376-8080 or

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.