Arts & Entertainment

The LISCA singers take a photo break at the base of Kiek in de Kök, a 38-meter high cannon tower in Tallinn, Estonia. Built in 1470, it houses an extensive museum of the town’s weapons and medieval era life. Photo by Candice Foley

This past July, singers from the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association “took to the skies” for the ninth time in their illustrious, 50-year history as a community chorus, bound this time for an eight-day performing and sight-seeing tour of three Baltic countries.

LISCA’S conductor, Thomas Schmidt, shared his reflections and impressions of the trip. “LISCA’s tour of the Baltic states was filled with surprises. Most of us weren’t even clear on where Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were when we left from JFK. Was Lithuania the northernmost one? Well no, it’s the southernmost one, bordering Poland and Belarus, with Latvia to the north and Estonia even further north, across the Baltic Sea from Finland.

Lithuania is mostly Catholic, whereas Latvia and Estonia are mostly Lutheran, although few practice any religion. Russians are still a large percentage of the area’s population, as much as 40 percent, although even now few of them are citizens. For most of their histories these three little countries have been ruled by other countries, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Russia.

But one of the major ways that they retained their sense of identity was through their choral tradition. Every four to five years there are gigantic choral festivals in each country, with singers dressed in their traditional, regional costumes. We saw the outdoor festival theater in Tallinn which overlooks the Baltic Sea. The stage has room for a mass choir of 20,000 and the audiences number in the hundreds of thousands. The festivals were a major way these countries maintained their unique cultures, languages and civic pride during times of foreign occupation.

So, it was not a surprise that LISCA’s concerts, held in the old 1799 City Hall in Vilnius, the 12th century, Gothic St. Peter’s Church in Riga, and the equally ancient St. Nicholas Church in Tallinn were received enthusiastically by full houses of educated listeners.

Each concert was dedicated to the memory of LISCA’s founder, Gregg Smith, who died at the age of 84 after a long illness on the morning we departed for the tour. The audience was told about his long career as one of America’s leading composers and choral conductors. Each concert ended by singing his hauntingly beautiful canon, ‘Now I Walk in Beauty.’”

The overwhelming concensus of those singers who ventured to travel to this unique part of the globe was unqualified satisfaction and enthusiasm. The people were warm and welcoming, the medieval buildings stunning and beautifully preserved, vitality blossoming everywhere. Independent since the Soviets left in 1991, these countries are finding their paths to flourish in the global economy and yet retain their national pride and cultural heritage.

LISCA’s singers are presently preparing for their annual winter concert to be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at the St. James Roman Catholic Church located at 429 Route 25A in Setauket. The program features Anton Bruckner’s “Mass in E Minor,” a beautiful but challenging and infrequently performed choral work accompanied by wind and brass instruments. It has been called “a work without parallel in either 19th or 20th century church music.” A Christmas Motet by Poulenc, two Gabrieli works with brass accompaniment and carols by Gregg Smith will complete the program.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and free for students. For further information please call 631-751-2743 or 631-941-9431.

By Nicole Geddes

Whether you’re driving or walking through a neighborhood of custom-built homes, it’s human nature to slow down and take in the scenery. From craftsman and Victorian-styled homes to Cape Cod, colonial and Dutch colonial, the architecture and history behind them piques interest.

The same can be said of the historical homes in the town of Huntington.

To “perpetuate an interest in things historic … in fact all historic relics relating to the Town of Huntington since 1653,” was the reason a group of women, some from Huntington’s founding families met at the home of Mrs. Frederic B. Sammis — known to her friends as Lizbeth — to form the Huntington Historical Society in September of 1903.

Visit seven historic homes this festive season
Visit seven historic homes this festive season.

Every December, the Huntington Historical Society collaborates with local owners of historical homes, offering tours that display the history of each home and their eclectic and architectural designs, as a service to the community. This year’s event will be held on Dec. 4.

Those who take part in the tour can exploit the chance to not just have something to do on a Sunday afternoon but also to see distinctive design styles.

“It’s a great way to spend the afternoon and to get some inspiration for your own house as far as decorating ideas. Typically, when we ask our homeowners to open up their homes, we do ask that they do some type of holiday decorating,” said Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, executive director at Huntington Historical Society.

Each year the tour is presented with a different theme. This year’s theme, Huntington’s History Lives Here, will feature five decorated homes along with the Dr. Daniel W. Kissam House Museum (circa 1795) and the David Conklin Farm House Museum (circa 1750).

“At the Kissam house we do have an exhibit called Wedding Days and Wedding Nights. Basically, it’s wedding attire from the late 1800s through the 1950s,” said Fortunato-Napolitano. “It’s not just gowns, it’s night wear as well. There’s other things too, like accessories, clothing that men wore, and information about weddings during that time.”

The homes on this year’s tour roster are not in walking distance of each other. “It is a driving tour,” said Fortunato-Napolitano. “After you purchase your tickets, you get the addresses and the map, and then you can view them in any order you want.”

Visitors of the tour can take a break from the tour or end the tour by visiting the Conklin Barn, where they can enjoy an array of scrumptious refreshments. Participants can expect to walk away with a good demonstration of the colonial lifestyle throughout America’s history. Fortunato-Napolitano said, “They’re all historic houses. They have a good story to them. They all cover different periods of Huntington’s history. And then of course too, there’s a snapshot of Huntington’s history through the architecture.”

The Huntington Historical Society’s 2016 Holiday House Tour will be held Sunday, Dec. 4 from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40 for the general public and $35 for members through Dec. 2. For more information, please call 631-427-7045, ext. 401 or visit www.huntingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

Joan Harris’ woodland-inspired wreath won Best in Show last year. Photo from SHS

It’s back! The Smithtown Historical Society, located at 239 Middle Country Road, Smithtown is holding a Heritage Country Christmas Community Wreath Contest through Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. Wreath must be from 12 to 24 inches in diameter; materials can be artist’s choice. Drop off is at the Roseneath Cottage. Entry fee is the donation of your wreath to the Historical Society. Cash prizes for Best in Show and Honorable Mentions will be awarded on Dec. 3; public voting is between 3 to 6 p.m. with the announcement of the winners at 6:45 p.m. Open to all. For more information, call 631-265-6768.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

David Dunaief, M.D.
David Dunaief, M.D.

Many of us give thanks for our health on Thanksgiving. Well, let’s follow through with this theme. While eating healthy may be furthest from our minds during a holiday, it is so important. Instead of making Thanksgiving a holiday of regret, eating foods that cause weight gain and fatigue, as well as increase your risk for chronic diseases, you can reverse this trend while staying in the traditional theme of what it means to enjoy a festive meal.

What can we do to turn Thanksgiving into a bonanza of good health? Phytochemicals (plant nutrients) called carotenoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and are found mostly in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids make up a family of greater than 600 different substances, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin (1).

Carotenoids help to prevent and potentially reverse diseases, such as breast cancer; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; age-related macular degeneration; and cardiovascular disease — heart disease and stroke. Foods that contain these substances are orange, yellow and red vegetables and fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. Examples include sweet potato, acorn squash, summer squash, spaghetti squash, green beans, carrots, cooked pumpkin, spinach, kale, papayas, tangerines, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Acorn squash contains carotenoids, which help to prevent breast cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, age-related macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease.
Acorn squash contains carotenoids, which help to prevent breast cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, age-related macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Breast cancer effect

We know that breast cancer risk is high among women, especially on Long Island. The risk for a woman getting breast cancer is 12.4 percent in her lifetime (2). Therefore, we need to do everything within reason to reduce that risk. In a meta-analysis (a group of eight prospective or forward-looking studies), results show that women who were in the second to fifth quintile blood levels of carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin, had significantly reduced risk of developing breast cancer (3). Thus, there was an inverse relationship between carotenoid levels and breast cancer risk. Even modest amounts of carotenoids potentially can have a resounding effect in preventing breast cancer.

ALS: Lou Gehrig’s disease

ALS is a disabling and feared disease. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for reversing it. Therefore, we need to work double-time in trying to prevent its occurrence. In a meta-analysis of five prestigious observational studies, including The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, results showed that people with the greatest amount of carotenoids in their blood from foods such as spinach, kale and carrots had a decreased risk of developing ALS and/or delayed the onset of the disease (4). This study involved over one million people with more than 1,000 who developed ALS.

Those who were in the highest carotenoid level quintile had a 25 percent reduction in risk, compared to those in the lowest quintile. This difference was even greater for those who had high carotenoid levels and did not smoke; they achieved a 35 percent reduction. According to the authors, the beneficial effects may be due to antioxidant activity and more efficient function of the power source of the cell, the mitochondrion. This is a good way to prevent a horrible disease while improving your overall health.

Positive effects of healthy eating

Despite the knowledge that healthy eating has long-term positive effects, there are several obstacles to healthy eating. Two critical factors are presentation and perception. Presentation is glorious for traditional dishes, like turkey, gravy and stuffing with lots of butter and creamy sauces. However, vegetables are usually prepared in either an unappetizing way — steamed to the point of no return, so they cannot compete with the main course, or smothered in cheese, negating their benefits, but clearing our consciences.

Many consider Thanksgiving a time to indulge and not think about the repercussions. Plant-based foods like whole grains, leafy greens and fruits are relegated to side dishes or afterthoughts. Why is it so important to change our mind-sets? Believe it or not, there are significant short-term consequences of gorging ourselves. Not surprisingly, people tend to gain weight from Thanksgiving to New Year. This is when most gain the predominant amount of weight for the entire year.

However, people do not lose the weight they gain during this time (5). If you can fend off weight gain during the holidays, just think of the possibilities for the rest of the year. Also, if you are obese and sedentary, you may already have heart disease. Overeating at a single meal increases your risk of heart attack over the near term, according to the American Heart Association (6). However, with a little Thanksgiving planning, you can reap significant benefits.

What strategies should you employ for the best outcomes?

• Make healthy, plant-based dishes part of the main course. I am not suggesting that you forgo signature dishes, but add to tradition by making mouthwatering vegetable-based main dishes for the holiday.

• Improve the presentation of vegetable dishes. Most people don’t like grilled chicken without any seasoning. Why should vegetables be different? In my family, we make sauces for vegetables, like a peanut sauce using mostly rice vinegar and infusing a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Good resources for appealing dishes can be found at www.pcrm.org, EatingWell magazine, www.wholefoodsmarket.com and many other resources.

• Replace refined grains with whole grains. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that replacing wheat or refined grains with whole wheat and whole grains significantly reduced central fat, or fat around the belly (7). Not only did participants lose subcutaneous fat found just below the skin but also visceral adipose tissue, the fat that lines organs and causes chronic diseases such as cancer.

• Create a healthy environment. Instead of putting out creamy dips, processed crackers and candies as snacks prior to the meal, put out whole grain brown rice crackers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Help people choose wisely.

• Offer more healthy dessert options, like dairy-free pumpkin pudding and fruit salad. The goal should be to increase your nutrient-dense choices and decrease your empty-calorie foods. You don’t have to be perfect, but improvements during this time period have a tremendous impact — they set the tone for the new year and put you on a path to success. Why not turn this holiday into an opportunity to de-stress, rest and reverse or prevent chronic disease by consuming plenty of carotenoid-containing foods.

References: (1) Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2010;50(8):728–760. (2) SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2009, National Cancer Institute. (3) J Natl Cancer Inst 2012;104(24):1905-1916. (4) Ann Neurol 2013;73:236–245. (5) N Engl J Med 2000; 342:861-867. (6) www.heart.org. (7) Am J Clin Nutr 2010 Nov; 92(5):1165-1171.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

The turkey may seem like the star on Nov. 24, but everybody knows it’s all about the sweet stuff. Go all out with these delicious recipes for Classic Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream Pie, a scrumptious and satisfying way to end your Thanksgiving feast.

Classic Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin-pie-1YIELD: Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

Pie crust

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick vegetable shortening

3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Filling

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle in 3 to 5 tablespoons ice water, a tablespoon at a time. Mix lightly with a fork after each addition, until dough is just moist enough to hold together. Shape dough into a ball. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out onto a lightly floured surface in the shape of a circle until dough is less than 1/4-inch thick. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, lift up, and unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Using your fingers, gently pat the dough into place. Trim any excess dough with a paring knife or kitchen shears, leaving a 1-inch overhang; then fold dough under to reinforce the edge. Whisk the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream Pie

5c1bc0c7091c7a189b28e6018abfea30YIELD: Serves 10.

INGREDIENTS:

Crust

9 graham crackers

1 cup finely chopped almonds

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

1 container (1.5 quarts) Dreyer’s or Edy’s Grand Coffee Ice Cream, softened

1/2 cup Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, chopped, divided

1/2 cup Nestlé La Lechera Dulce de Leche

1 tub (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS: To make the crust: Heat oven to 325 F. In food processor, add graham crackers and pulse until crackers resemble fine crumbs. Add crumbs to bowl along with chopped almonds, sugar and butter; stir to combine. Press into bottom and up sides of 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely. To make filling: Spread ice cream into cooled pie crust, smoothing out over bottom. Sprinkle with half of the chopped morsels. Heat dulce de leche in microwave-safe bowl on high for a few seconds to soften; stir. Pour over chocolate morsels, spreading evenly. Spoon whipped topping over dulce de leche, covering entire surface of pie. Sprinkle with remaining morsels and almonds. Freeze 30 minutes.

Remove pie from freezer and cover with foil. Place back in freezer for at least 4 hours, or until pie has set. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

'Faces in the Crowd'

In recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month in November, The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will serve as a showcase for the 4th annual Through Our Eyes exhibition in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room through Dec. 13.

‘Beckoning Blooms,’ beads on canvas, by Marie G., Jean C. and Shirley D., residents of North Hills Bristal Assisted Living, is one of 33 works on view. Image from LIM
‘Beckoning Blooms,’ beads on canvas, by Marie G., Jean C. and Shirley D., residents of North Hills Bristal Assisted Living, is one of 33 works on view. Image from LIM

Discover the beauty in 33 unique works created by residents from 13 communities at the Bristal Assisted Living. Photographic portraits and artist statements presented beside each artwork provide a richer context and a deeper connection with both the piece and artist. The exhibition is an extension of the museum’s In the Moment: Art Engagement for People with Memory Loss program.

Piloted in 2011, In the Moment is a gallery program of art engagement for people with memory loss and their care partners. To date, the program has served more than 750 participants. Developed with the nationally recognized Meet Me at MoMA program in New York City and the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center, the program is led by trained museum educators.

“Observing art created by individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia is truly a gift. The person’s diagnosis is no longer the focus, rather it is the art that becomes the expression of their unique identity,” said Darlene Jyringi, program director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center of Long Island.

Programs take place in the Carriage and Art Museums and offer opportunities for mental stimulation and social engagement. Participants are able to connect with the artwork on display, gain a sense of importance, and share and relay memories, unique experiences for many of the participants, who “rarely speak otherwise” according to one care partner. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

13507169_534035353468881_6222762848800535560_nAttention coffee lovers! Village Coffee Market, 131 Main St., Stony Brook (located right next to the post office) invites the community to an Open House on Tuesday, Nov. 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Come find out all about the newest store at the Stony Brook Village Center. Start your holiday shopping while enjoying coffee samples and baked goods. For additional questions, call 631-675-9525.

Shinjae Yoo with his son Erum

By Daniel Dunaief

He works with clouds, solar radiation and nanoparticles, just to name a few. The subjects Shinjae Yoo, a computational scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, tackles span a broad range of arenas, primarily because his focus is using large pieces of information and making sense of them.

Yoo helps refine and make sense of searches. He develops big data streaming algorithms that can apply to any domain where data scalability issues arise. Integrating text analysis with social network analysis, Yoo did his doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also earned a master’s degree, on creating systems that helped prioritize these electronic messages.

“If you are [traveling and] in the airport, before you get into your plane, you want to check your email and you don’t have much time,” he said. While this isn’t the main research work he is doing at the lab, this is the type of application for his work. Yoo developed his technical background on machine learning when he was at Carnegie Mellon. He said he continues to learn, improve and develop machine learning methods in various science domains. By using a statistical method that combines computational science skills, statistics and applied math, he can offer a comprehensive and, in some cases, rapid analysis of information.

Colleagues and collaborators suggested Yoo has made an impact with his work in a wide range of fields. His “contribution is not only in the academic field, but also means a lot on the industrial and academic field,” Hao Huang, a machine learning scientist at GE Global Research, wrote in an email. “He always focuses on making good use of data mining and machine learning theory on real world [areas] such as biology, renewable energy and [in the] material science domain.”

Yoo explained how a plant biologist can do stress conditioning for a plant with one goal in mind. That scientist can collect data over the course of 20 years and then they can “crunch the data, but they can’t always analyze it,” which might be too unwieldy for a bench scientist to handle. Using research from numerous experiments, scientists can study the data, which can provide a new hypothesis. Exploring the information in greater detail, and with increased samples, can also lead to suggestions for the best way to design future experiments.

Yoo said he can come to the scientist and use machine learning to help “solve their science data problem,” giving the researchers a clearer understanding of the broad range of information they collected. “Nowadays, generated data is very easy,” but understanding and interpreting that information presents bigger challenges. Take the National Synchrotron Light Source II at BNL. The $912 million facility, which went live online earlier this year, holds considerable promise for future research. It can look at the molecules in a battery as the battery is functioning, offering a better understanding of why some batteries last considerably longer than others. It can also offer a look at the molecular intermediaries in biochemical reactions, offering a clearer and detailed picture of the steps in processes that might have relevance for disease, drug interactions or even the creation of biological products like shells. He usually helps automate data analytics or bring new hypotheses to scientists, Yoo said. One of the many challenges in experiments at facilities like the NSLS II and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, also at BNL, is managing the enormous flow of information that comes through these experiments.

Indeed, at the CFN, the transmission electron microscopy generates 3 gigabytes per second for the image stream. Using streaming analysis, he can provide an approximate understanding of the information. Yoo received a $1.9 million, three-year Advanced Scientific Computer Research grant this year. The grant is a joint proposal for which Yoo is the principal investigator. This grant, which launched this September, is about high-performance computing enabled machine learning for spatio-temporal data analysis. The primary application, he said, is in climate. He plans to extend it to other data later, including, possibly for NSLS II experiments.

Yoo finds collaborators through emails, phone calls, seminars or anywhere he meets other researchers. Huang, who started working with Yoo in 2010 when Huang was a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook, appreciates Yoo’s passion for his work. Yoo is “dedicated to his research,” Huang explained. “When we [ran] our proposed methods and got results that [were] better than any of the existing work, he was never satisfied and [was] always trying to further explore to get even better performance.”

When he works with collaborators in many disparate fields, he has found that the fundamental data analysis methodologies are similar. He needs to do some customization and varied preprocessing steps. There are also domain-specific terms. When Yoo came to BNL seven years ago, some of his scientific colleagues around the country were not eager to embrace his approach to sorting and understanding large pools of data. Now, he said other researchers have heard about machine learning and what artificial intelligence can do and they are eager to “apply those methods and publish new papers.”

Born and raised in South Korea, Yoo is married to Hayan Lee, who earned her PhD at Stony Brook and studies computational biology and specializes in genome assembly. They have a four-year old son, Erum. Yoo calls his son “his great joy” and said he “gives me a lot of happiness. Hanging around my son is a great gift.”

When Yoo was entering college in South Korea, he said his father, who had worked at the National Institute of Forest Science, played an important role. After his father consulted with people about different fields, he suggested Yoo choose computer science over chemistry, which would have been his first choice. “He concluded that computer science would be a new field that would have a great future, which is true, and I appreciate my dad’s suggestion,” Yoo said.

Last year's performance of 'The Nutracker.' Photo courtesy of Harbor Ballet Theatre.

By Kevin Redding

Toy soldiers, angels, sword-wielding mice and a sugar plum fairy are back in town to spread the magic of Christmas to audiences young and old.

For more than two decades, the North Shore community has looked to Port Jefferson’s Harbor Ballet Theatre to officially kick off the holiday season each year with its dazzling production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”Coming up on its 25th anniversary production, the not-for-profit dance company gears up to deliver another unforgettable spectacle. John Worrell, executive artistic director of the show, said that the calibre of their production has helped it become a holiday tradition among the community.

“The dancing, the dancers, the choreography and the sets are incredible,” said Worrell. “Just the way that we tell the story is very understandable and very easy for everyone to follow. It really sets the tone for Port Jefferson and Setauket and Stony Brook and Miller Place because everybody gravitates to get that holiday feeling.”

Harbor Ballet Theatre was founded in 1991 by Worrell and his wife Amy Tyler as an open company to give dancers of all ages the opportunity to be part of professionally staged ballet productions. Worrell said it was also created to allow anybody from anywhere to come and audition, which is why there are so many new faces on a year-to-year basis as well as longtime dancers.

Last year's performance of 'The Nutracker.' Photo courtesy of Harbor Ballet Theatre.
A scene from last year’s performance of ‘The Nutracker.’ Photo courtesy of Harbor Ballet Theatre.

This production will feature about 70 performers, a majority of them between the ages 6 and 25. Auditions were held in the second week of September and the first rehearsal took place on the first weekend of October, giving way to 10 to 12 strenuous yet worthwhile rehearsals before the final show. Some of the senior dancers in the show even committed six to seven days a week for at least two hours a day to rehearsal.

“That whole debate whether dance is a sport … they [dancers] train like athletes,” said Worrell. “They work drills everyday. To be able to get to the level they want to be and be able to do their solos in the second act and lift each other up, they have to work their butts off.”

Richard Liebert and Rebecca Stafford, seniors from Earl L. Vandermuellen High School, are among some of the more experienced dancers in the production. Liebert, who plays the Mouse King, said there are a lot of physical challenges.

“There are times [in the show] where I have to lift a girl over my head and turn her,” said Liebert. “It could be a bit intimidating … but it’s worthwhile. I love doing it.”

“We’re with our friends, so we’re having fun,” said Stafford, who plays Harlequin.

Worrell said that at the start of production, he and Amy watched the DVD from the previous year’s show and figured out what, if anything, they wanted to change. The most common changes year-to-year have to do with solos, which depend on the dancers in the show, what their strengths are, and what they feel most comfortable doing.

Worrell said that there are plans to add a new element this year but wants to keep it a surprise and “make sure that it works first.”“We try to add something new every year, every two years … just to keep it fresh, so the audience will find it fun to watch,” he said.

Join Harbor Ballet Theatre in celebrating its 25th anniversary of “The Nutcracker” and prepare to be swept away by the extravagant sets, rich costumes, passionate acting and dancing and Tchaikovsky’s masterful music.

Performances of “The Nutcracker” will be held on Friday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. at Earl L. Vandermuellen High School, 350 Old Post Road, Port Jefferson. All seats are $25 in advance, cash or check only. For more information, please call 631-331-3149.

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