A dream will come true for some High Country dancers this December. Local precision dance troupe, The Carolina Snowbelles, is headed to the nation’s capital to debut their new holiday show, “A Carolina Snowbelle Christmas,” on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m on the prestigious Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Carolina Snowbelles Precision Dance Company, directed by Cheryl Cutlip along with the Western Carolina Youth Ballet Company — directed by Brad Parquette — will perform in the one hour production.
The 28-member dance troupe has been rehearsing this one-hour show since August, their most ambitious and comprehensive performance to date. A Carolina Snowbelle Christmas will feature precision tap and jazz, vocal performance and ballet, as well as spoken word and audience interaction. Throughout the performance, audience members will experience the Snowbelles’ impressive precision dance and spectacular costuming.
“Our creative team thought it would be a fantastic challenge for the company members age 10 and up to not only learn the unique style of precision dance, but to also experience creating a one-hour production and travel to DC and NYC to perform,” said Cutlip, Rockette alumnus and director of The Carolina Snowbelles.
Family, friends and supporters are welcome to attend the free show at The Kennedy Center, but if travel isn’t possible, the performance will be streamed online at kennedy-center.org/video/live.
As a scholarship program of the nonprofit Project Dance Foundation, young dancers who earn a position with The Carolina Snowbelles through an audition process participate solely on merit. In the same spirit, the troupe is raising funds so that all dancers will be able to take advantage of this honor.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Project Dance Foundation, courtesy of The Carolina Snowbelles, 276-H Watauga Village Drive, Suite 139, Boone, NC 28607. More information can be found at their website.
“Precision dance is an entirely different medium of the art form than most young girls experience, requiring incredible teamwork, which can be a challenge for adolescent girls,” said Karyn Kennedy Herterich, president of the Kennedy-Herterich Foundation. “One of the most positive impacts of Cheryl’s lessons has been the incredible communication skills — especially with older people — and the development of poise and self-esteem. These traits will prove to be invaluable to their futures.”
After performing, dancers will head to New York City to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and meet a Rockette backstage, which is a dream come true for these aspiring dancers.
About the Carolina Snowbelles
The Carolina Snowbelles, a program of The Project Dance Foundation, is a precision dance troupe in the High Country of North Carolina. Our mission is to train and encourage local dancers ages 10 and above in the unique style of precision dance through training and performing opportunities. The troupe rehearses 3 hours weekly and performs at local events, holiday shows and schools. Precision dance incorporates tap and jazz styles while teaching skills of teamwork, self-esteem, mentorship and community involvement. The Carolina Snowbelles seeks funding to facilitate our efforts to continue to provide 100% scholarships to qualifying participants.
The Carolina Snowbelles is an all-scholarship program. All dancers are required to take regular lessons from a studio, while the Snowbelles is designed to be an extension.
“I know that it isn’t always possible for families to pay for this level of additional training. I really wanted a troupe that was community driven, giving the community the opportunity to support young dancers, and they’ve done that,” Cutlip said. “It has been really exciting.”
The Carolina Snowbelles rely on the concept of teamwork for success. Precision dance naturally promotes the concept of working together as skills are learned and executed both in rehearsals and performances. Each dancer brings a unique set of capabilities to our troupe, and through reflection and teamwork, we are able to blend the individual strengths into a coherent whole.
“They have to work together,” said Cutlip. “If one or two dancers don’t get it, the whole group is off.”
Even though the program has only been in existence for a few years, several young dancers from the High Country have already started realizing their dancing dreams. Three Snowbelles — Katie Hannah, Savannah Spencer and Emma Pinnix — auditioned and earned spots in the week-long Radio City Rockettes’ Summer Intensive this year. They went to New York and learned advanced techniques, ending in a public performance.
“It’s one thing for me to tell my students about the experience,” said Cutlip. “But it is really cool for them to hear about it from their peers!”
The Carolina Snowbelles is part of Cheryl’s “Project Dance Foundation,” which seeks to nurture dancers to their fullest potential and inspire people globally. Project Dance began as a response to 9-11 in New York City, when the dance community sought to encourage and bring a message of hope to those impacted by the devastating events of September 11, 2001.
For more information about The Carolina Snowbelles, visit their website here.
About Cheryl Cutlip
Cheryl Cutlip is founder of The Project Dance Foundation, director of The Carolina Snowbelles, former Rockette and Assistant Choreographer of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York City. Cheryl served with The Rockettes from 1993-2008. Her passion is to positively impact culture through artistic integrity.
In Archdale, North Carolina, her mother enrolled her at the one dance studio when she was just three years old. When Cheryl was thirteen, she began taking lessons in Winston-Salem with the legendary Mallory Graham, who had choreographed and performed in many Broadway shows in New York.
“I grew up in a small town in North Carolina where there was one dance studio and one stop light. Through the help of my supportive parents and amazing dance teachers, and with a lot of hard work and determination, I made my way to New York City where I became a Radio City Rockette,” said Cutlip. “Now living in Blowing Rock, NC, I desire to give back to this community what I’ve learned through my experiences as a professional dancer.”
While a Rockette, Cheryl had a blended experience of life in the spotlight while in uniform, and living in New York as a “regular person” when not dressed for the part.
“Unless I was in costume, no one recognized me as a Rockette,” said Cutlip. “But on the job, it was a whole different culture. The Rockettes are in the fabric of New York City, so we’d go to high profile functions, meet presidents and celebrities, be a part of the pop-rock scene. And I’d be standing there, thinking, ‘They have no idea who I am, just a little girl from North Carolina!’”
How to Donate
The young dancers within The Carolina Snowbelles depend on donations to achieve their aspirations they work so diligently toward.
“Each of those girls are trying to raise money to cover their housing, transportation and food,” Cutlip said. “That’s a lot for a young girl, especially for families who have two or three siblings that are in the troupe.”
If interested in donating, click here. Any contribution is welcomed.
Here is a current list of supporters of The Carolina Snowbelles.