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Murrysville

Sibling sissonne fermée: Westmoreland 'Nutcracker' ballet includes several sisters

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, 8:39 a.m.
Nurzhan Kulybaev and Alexa Pierce, 15, of Greensburg rehearse for the Palace Theatre's production of 'The Nutcracker' on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Nurzhan Kulybaev and Alexa Pierce, 15, of Greensburg rehearse for the Palace Theatre's production of 'The Nutcracker' on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.
Ellen Holt, 4, and her sister Clara, 7, of Murrysville will perform in the Palace Theatre's production of 'The Nutcracker.'
Submitted photo
Ellen Holt, 4, and her sister Clara, 7, of Murrysville will perform in the Palace Theatre's production of 'The Nutcracker.'

For more than two decades, students at the Laurel Ballet Theatre School in Greensburg have been part of the Palace Theater's annual production of "The Nutcracker" alongside the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra.

This year, it will be filled with siblings, as no fewer than four sets of sisters will take part in the production, which will be performed Dec. 9 and 10 at Greensburg's Palace Theatre.

"It's been something I've done since I was 6 years old," says Hannah Barkley-Mastalski of Jeannette. "I turn 20 this December, so it's just been every year for me. It's such a tradition, and it's really special."

Hannah and her sisters, Katie, 16, and Sarah, 13, will take part in the show.

Judy Tubbs, resident choreographer for the Laurel Ballet, says her students are very lucky.

"We get to perform with the symphony, and that's a really unique experience for dancers at this age," Tubbs says. "Our dancers are still young enough to really love 'The Nutcracker.' "

They will also have plenty of experienced co-stars. The guest and principal dancer for this production is Nurzhan Kulybaev, ballet master at Natalya's Turning Pointe School of dance in northeast Ohio. Kulybaev is the recipient of the highest theatrical award in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Golden Sofit. More recently, Kulybaev was a principal dancer with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet during the 2011-2012 season.

Alyson Holt of Murrysville will have a chance to watch her daughters, 7-year-old Clara and 4-year-old Ellen, perform in this year's show.

"It's a great ballet education and I think it translates into a lot of life skills," Holt says. "It teaches the kids poise, grace and self-confidence."

Other sisters involved in the show Juliana and Isabella Matteo of Penn Township, and Violet, Lilly and Penelope Black of Penn Township.

And there's one more familiy connection: the Matteo sisters' dad, Michael, is the percussionist for the Westmoreland Symphony.

Tubbs says she is grateful to Westmoreland County parents.

"It's really wonderful to have enough parents in this rural community who care enough to have their kids get this quality of education," she says. "It's so great to have a community interested enough that the arts can survive and thrive here."

Barkley-Matalski says she is excited to once again be part of the holiday experience with her sisters.

"For us being together to share it, and as a whole team, it's just really great," she says.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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