Holiday dance tradition continues in State College

Centre Dance has been sharing its variation of “The Nutcracker” with State College for the past 26 years.
Centre Dance has been sharing its variation of “The Nutcracker” with State College for the past 26 years. Photo provided

Since 1892, the majesty of Tchaikovsky’s renowned ballet “The Nutcracker” has enthralled countless audiences around the globe. In keeping with this timeless tradition, the Centre Dance ballet studio will be performing the fantastical tale of Marie and her favorite Christmas toy that comes to life at the State Theatre this weekend.

Centre Dance has been sharing its variation of “The Nutcracker” with State College for the past 26 years. The studio’s founder and owner Nicole Swope, her dancers and designers put in a hefty amount of effort every year to ensure that there is always something new to enhance what’s unfolding onstage. This approach helps to keep things fresh for both the performers and audiences alike.

“After doing this show for so long, it is always surprising to see how much work it takes to put up a full length ballet — the costumes, casting, choreography, staging and preparations at the theater,” Swope said. “We redo about 80 percent of the show each year and have even added some other styles besides ballet. We have some tap, acrobatic and hip-hop sections as well.”

Centre Dance also prides itself on the vibrancy of and camaraderie between its dancers. While these qualities may be a bit difficult to teach, their hours of rehearsals ultimately pay off and reward everyone in the room.

“Audiences can expect to be entertained for the entire show, whether being entertained by our adorable little ones doing their thing or being impressed by our seasoned and experienced older dancers,” Swope said. “We spend a lot of time not only perfecting the dance technique for the ballet, but on working to create chemistry while on stage. Our goal is to never have a ‘dead stage’ where there is stagnancy or parts with nothing going on.”

Centre Dance’s performances will be taking place almost exactly 125 years to the day after “The Nutcracker” first premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Since then, the mesmerizing music and stunning choreography have solidified “The Nutcracker” as one of the most enduring holiday traditions of the season, especially in State College.

“I think it is a holiday staple for many families, and it can be enjoyed with your children, then your grandchildren and more,” Swope said. “In a fast-paced world, I think audiences are enchanted by the show’s simple, fantasy-based journey. I still marvel at the beauty and urgency created by the music of Tchaikovsky after all these years. My first ‘Nutcracker’ performance was over 35 years ago in Altoona with the Allegheny Ballet. I loved the show for so many reasons, but the music affected me the most.”

Swope founded Centre Dance in 1991. In the years since, the studio has grown and has had hundreds of dancers spin and scuffle across its wooden floor. The time that these students spent with Swope and her studio helped to establish a solid foundation for them to go onto a number of great things, including dancing professionally and opening studios of their own. The success of her students is a testament to Swope’s tireless work as an instructor, mentor and friend.

“It is very rewarding to see our studio’s growth over the past 26 years,” Swope said. “It is a family business effort, and my husband Allen and I wear many hats in the day-to-day operation of the business. In fact, we still use the growing Christmas tree in our ‘Nutcracker’ production that he constructed 26 years ago.

“Many people who work at the studio began dancing with me as a child, and so many of our dancers continue to foster their love of dance in college by participating in dance clubs and teams,” Swope added. “I like to think that the studio has had a positive impact on Centre County, and I am lucky to have had my school in this community for all of these years.”

Starting Friday, there are three opportunities to see Centre Dance’s “The Nutcracker,” including a Sunday matinee.

“There is something magical about downtown State College during the holidays,” Swope said, “and this show adds another great family event to see during this time of year.”


  • What: Centre Dance’s “The Nutcracker”
  • When: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre .org