Jovodance is bringing families together through ‘Nutcracker’ tradition

The production will take place this weekend at Maple Point Middle School

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

One of the classics: Performances of The Magic of The Nutcracker will take place Dec. 21, 22 and 23 at Maple Point Middle School in Langhorne. Source: Carrie Nork Minelli

As a child, Langhorne resident and South Philadelphia native Liz Jovovich vividly remembers attending the holiday light show with her family at the old Wanamaker Building in Center City. It was a yearly experience she’ll never forget, one that still brings a smile to her face decades later.

Such holiday traditions are something Jovovich places high importance on, especially now that she has four children of her own, in addition to a grandchild on the way. It’s those special memories, not the gifts purchased, that last a lifetime.

Five years ago, Jovovich, along with her husband Scott, decided to introduce a new tradition to the area, The Magic of The Nutcracker. The local production has since become a highly-anticipated event, with both students and parents from Jovodance, a studio founded 10 years ago by the couple, involved in the show.

Ahead of the performances at Maple Point Middle School on Dec. 21, 22 and 23, The Times sat down with Jovovich beside the studio’s pointe shoe tree, where she shared details on what makes Jovodance’s version of The Nutcracker so unique.

According to Jovovich, the caliber of the show is due largely in part to the lengthy professional background of her husband, who has been performing on stage since the age of 8.

“His choreography is very unique, his story is very magical. There are so many twists on Nutcracker. Everybody has their own little twist on it. In his, everybody that’s in the first act becomes somebody in the second act,” she said. “The choreography is difficult choreography, so it’s a big challenge for these kids to take on.”

Auditions were held for the various roles, with a blend of Jovodance students and out-of-state performers earning spots in the ballet. Some hail from Colorado, Florida and Arizona for the chance to play the principals. The cast members range in age from as young as 5 to as old as 72. Parents (and even grandparents) become part of The Nutcracker during “Grandfather Dance,” for which they must learn a small amount of choreography.

“Their kids are very passionate about what they do and the parents become involved,” Jovovich said.

At Jovodance, encountering parents who wholeheartedly support the arts is very common. Jovovich proudly stated how the studio has at least 10 second-generation students. She taught several mothers when they were toddlers, and though some have pursued non-dance careers, they’ve now returned with their own children.

“It’s always fun to watch them take a different journey, but dance is still a part of their life,” she said. “It seems to just stay in your blood.”

The Jovovich family is a living example of this idea, with two of the four children following in her and Scott’s Broadway-bound footsteps.

“It’s definitely a family participation all around. So I think that’s kind of what makes it unique,” Jovovich said of the studio. “We are family and we have families involved.”

Their daughter, Priscilla Alexandria Garner, teaches at Jovodance and is arguably the reason her parents made the decision to open the school. While dancing for a ballet company, Garner was injured. After attending rehab, Scott suggested she take some classes locally to continue gaining back her strength. Needless to say, he was in disbelief when Garner informed him she couldn’t find any dance schools nearby. Scott, who was easing himself away from Broadway at the time, consulted with his wife about opening a Bucks County studio. He wanted to bring the arts to Langhorne.

Located on the second level of the Oxford Valley Mall, Jovodance serves as a training program for the dancer who wants to pursue a professional career. While many students are from the surrounding areas, others travel from West Chester, Lehigh Valley, and even Virginia and North Carolina to take master classes from Scott, who teaches throughout the country as part of the New York Dance Alliance. Students who enjoy his style and feel he has helped them often make the trek to learn more.

The school offers instruction in multiple dance styles, including ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, modern and tap, in addition to vocals for those who wish to pursue a musical theater path. All teachers are current or retired professionals.

As classes continue to run as usual, all hands are on deck to put the finishing touches on The Nutcracker, which Jovovich is thrilled to once again present.

“It’s always been something that I have wanted to be able to do, and I think my husband has brought that to life,” she said. “I like the fact that we can do this and bring it to our community where we live. And that’s what really fuels it the most. Not everybody’s going to be as passionate about it as we are, but if we can at least reach one, two, three people, or inspire young kids to follow their dream, we’ve done our job.” ••

If you go…

The Magic of The Nutcracker will take place at the Harry M. Dengler Theater at Maple Point Middle School, 2250 Langhorne-Yardley Road, Langhorne. Performances are on Friday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 22, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 23, at 2 p.m.

For ticket information, call 215–752–3731, email madt@jovodance.com, or visit jovodance.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com