A Lifetime of Nutcracker

Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) has spent 40 Decembers ushering in the holiday season with The Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For many, the annual Christmas ballet has become a staple of the season. For one dancer, it’s a lifelong tradition.

Jennifer Ricci in her dressing room

The name Jennifer Ricci has almost become synonymous with Festival Ballet. The veteran dancer has been involved with the Company for most of her life- 39 years to be exact- delighting audiences with her signature expressiveness. This season marks Ricci’s 35th anniversary performing in FBP’s Nutcracker production, an annual tradition she began at the age of 8 as one of the cast’s youngest roles, a party child.

Jennifer Ricci as the Sugar Plum Fairy in 1998

“I look forward to Nutcracker all year,” Jennifer said of the production, adding, “It stirs up so many great memories from my past and creates new ones each year.”

Ricci has grown up through The Nutcracker, dancing the leading role of Clara for several years before being selected early to join the company when she was only 16. Jennifer has since performed many different roles in the ballet, but there is one role that she has made distinctly her own: Arabian Coffee. We asked Jennifer how she came to dance this exquisite role…

“Arabian was always my dream role as a child.  I would watch the company dancers perform it with my jaw wide open,” Jennifer said. “Tall dancers were always chosen for the role and being petite, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be given the chance to do it. When I was 16, I decided to start learning it myself in the back of the studio, using the barre as a partner.

Jennifer Ricci rehearsing “Arabian” at age 16 with Kevin Milam

One day, Christine [Hennessey, FBP Co-Founder] said to me, ‘I see you, little one, keep up the good work, you keep practicing!’ One of the company men volunteered to learn it with me, and we actually ended up performing in one of the Discover Dance performance!  It went extremely well, and that’s how I became the Arabian dancer.”

Jennifer warming up for her role as “Arabian” in FBP’s The Nutcracker

And we are so very glad she did! Jennifer lends her uniquely sexy style to “Arabian” this December at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Click here or call (401) 421-ARTS for tickets.


This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.


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