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What Nutcrackers are you seeing?


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#16 citibob

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Posted 08 December 2002 - 08:07 PM

Mateo's Waltz of the Flowers involves three groups plus Dew Drop: a duet, a trio and a quartet. The different groups are costumed differently.

Each group of flowers has a different movement quality. That is what intruiges me the most when I watch it. The yellow flowers ("daffodiles" in my mind) are "darting". The other two? I forget Mateo's words for them. In my mind, the purple flowers are "gracious and flowing", and the other ones are somewhere inbetween. I'm never quite sure how to describe it to myself.

#17 ronny

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 04:13 AM

I didn't know what to expect since I was told that the Moskow Ballet company wasn't so great. And, Panama City (Florida) is a small town and not a cultural haven. So I didn't expect much... but I went anyway.

Holy Smokes! Look at the crowd! 2500 people came to the "Marina Civic Center" in a town with a population of 36,000. Many could not get tickets since they had sold out. Well, so what, its the Nutcracker, a traditional favorite. So I still wasn't convinced that I was going see anything great.

I had seen a TV comercial about this production and the costumes were rather garish and it didn't look so good... but listen, this was some OLD footage. As it turned out, all the costumes had JUST been redone for this tour and they returned to a more traditional color and style. Wonderful costumes, very lovely now. A big improvement.

This is not a rinky dink touring outfit. I don't know how they were in the past, but this is now a spectacular show. Everything seemed right to me... and everything seemed to be full scale (not cut down for tour). There were close to 50 talented Russians and about 40 local childred on stage. I don't know how they did it, but the local kids were very well integrated into the dance choreography. Very excellent advance work on someones part.

The backdrops were changed to reflect a message (or desire) for world peace. I don't like political messages, but believe it or not, it was so well done that I hope that they keep the modification for others to see. It included a huge white butterfly with wings that extended far beyond the reach of her arms and the wings would "flit" upward with each clash of the symbol... sounds silly I know, but she was being held up very high and with the lighting it was as if she was floating. It was quite impressive and beautiful.

Some of the Russian dancers had the enthusiam and skill to be down right electrifying. I really had the feeling that I was sitting in a great theater in Russia and not a civic center in Panama City.

The Moscow Ballet company may have been marginal in the past, but what I saw far exceeded anything that I could have imagined.
They did a wonderful job and to think that they are a "tour group", well, its down right amazing.

If you saw their nutcracker in the past and didn't care for it, give it another chance. I don't think you will be dissapointed.

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 04:20 AM

Well, a political message might not be unpalatable, ronny. After all, in the original, there was an economic message: The business of Russia is business! It was a celebration of consumer goods becoming more available to Russians, and celebrated the nation's trading status with other nations. Even the Cavalier, Prince Koklush(whooping cough), might very easily be American - Smith Brothers cough drops were being sold in Petersburg then!

#19 GWTW

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Posted 09 December 2002 - 11:29 PM

That's very interesting, Mel. Do you think that that capitalistic message has anything to do with the Nutcracker's widespread popularity in the USA?

BTW, the Israel Ballet does not have a production of the Nutcracker and usually dances Cinderella at Hanuka time.

#20 Hans

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 11:48 AM

In the French, however, Coqueluche also means "darling" or "favorite." Knowing this helped me make sense of the Vainonen Nutcracker--the Sugar Plum Fairy has several cavaliers, but dances mostly with her favorite. Also, for anyone who finds the Nutcracker music getting on his/her nerves should consider this: for a while in Russia, it was performed year-round!

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 01:59 PM

The Coqueluche in question happens to come from a Franco-Russian idiom meaning "he gets around like whooping cough", i.e. he's very popular, everybody has him at their house.;) In the case of the original cavalier, Pavel Gerdt, this worked pretty well, as he was a bit of a social lion in 1890s Petersburg. (And besides, he had that Smith Brothers beard!;) )

And yes, I do believe that the emphasis on consumer goods works to the ballet's favor in the US, whether the means to attaining them be monarchist, republican, or socialist, or some of each!:)

#22 lillianna

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Posted 14 December 2002 - 06:55 PM

I have recently moved to the West coast from the East. I am used to seeing the Balanchine Nutcracker every year. This year I have seen a few performances of San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker and Sacramento Ballet's Nutcracker. Between the 3 Nutcrackers I must say that I enjoy Sacramento's version the most. It is definitely the most magical. It is Ron Cunningham's choreography, he is the director of Sacramento Ballet and was Drosslemeyer in the production that I saw last week. I took a friend along, another ballet mom who is from Australia. She also has seen many versions of the Nutcracker and agreed that she liked Sacramentos the best.
I also have enjoyed the San Francisco Nutcracker except for the party scene. The party scene is very dull. It took until halfway through the party scene until I could figure out which girl was Clara. I thoroughly enjoy their snow scene, though. I love the idea of having a Snow King and Queen, something that is missing in the Balanchine version. Friday night Kristin Long was Snow Queen and Saturday it was Nicole Starbuck. They were both absolutely beautiful. Saturday matinee had Julie Diana and Zack Hench as Sugar Plum and Cavalier. They are a magnificent pair and were about the best Sugar Plum and Cavalier that I have ever seen.
So while I am missing parts of the Balanchine version I have found other parts that I am enjoying more.

#23 John-Michael

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Posted 15 December 2002 - 09:57 AM

I've seen the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker for the second year. The sets and costumes are lavish and there are some good performances (frankly, the cast I saw last year was a lot better) but the choreography and libretto could use some serious tweaking. Pretty much it turns into a revue with a group of gorgeously costumed dancers parading around the stage striking the same poses interminably. In the waltz of the snowflakes the dancers hardly even moved. The dancer I saw as "Masha" was quite good... beautiful line and strong turns... but seemed limited by the small stage and repetitiveness of the choreopgraphy. Maybe this has something to do with their touring... if the choreography is too complex they might have trouble adapting it to so many different stages. Still, it's a nice enough production with well-trained dancers, a few of whom were well beyond the merely competent level. As far as the "message of peace, love, and harmony" it wasn't that much different from last year's production (other than the inclusion of the Dove... looking more as if she were a butterfly and obviously tacked on since she basically had no role in the story or dancing to do... and some distracting animal "puppets" in the character dances). I think it had more to do with marketing the ballet to a country on the verge of war than with any political statement. Incidentally, does anyone know if Moscow Ballet is a more or less phantom company only organized to perform The Nutcracker?

#24 BW

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Posted 15 December 2002 - 01:24 PM

Last night we attended Dances Patrelle's The Yorkville Nutcracker http://www.dancespatrelle.org/ - the cast consisted of members of Dances Patrelle's troupe - dancers who have been, and may still be, performing professionally elsewhere; students from The Ailey School, Ballet Academy East, School of American Ballet and Studio Maestro; and for last night's performance the two guest artists were Jennifer Ringer and James Fayette.

As I posted elsewhere this Nutcracker takes place in the Mayor of NY's home - Gracie Mansion... the guests are diplomats from all over the world so they're very colorful as are their children. A Drosselmyer type - here he is "Uncle Noah Wheaton" - is in attendance and was played really well by Donald Paradise... There's a dancing "bear" who turns out to be Teddy Roosevelt - played by Frances Patrelle himself with the perfect nonstop toothy grin complete with wire rimmed glasses! The naughty boys have more of a Rough Rider theme to their shannanigans...(and this theme is carried throughout the battle scene later). The sets were really well done - different scrims representing the outside of Gracie Mansion, the living room, a beautiful scene in Central Park with a frozen lake and snow covered bridge, trees etc. - where the Snow King and Queen appear ...a corps of really well rehearsed skaters whose costumes were incredibly beautiful - long, dark blue skating skirts, short, closely fitted jackets, hats, and muffs - they really seemed historically accurate! Later, there's a scene with the Botanical Gardens' greenhouse in the background as well.

The dancing was very good, the students looked well rehearsed to me and were really quite good. I can say all this pretty freely since my own was in the audience with me! Mr. Patrelle did a great job with the choreography, the costumes ran the gamut from the enchanting to the funny and colorful. The costumes for the mice and the gingerbread children were really great and added a lot of humor to the scenes...along with the dancers themselves who caught the humor well and played their parts with ease and enjoyment.

What can I say - we were really more than pleasantly surprised having never attended this Nutcracker before. I'm not going to try to give you a play by play on the specific dancers and scenes - there were too many and I'm not capable of doing them justice! Let me just say that among the different students there were several real standouts and that on the whole they were all quite good ... the ones that had lead roles really showed their stuff! And having the professionals in various roles such as Francois Perron as the Snow King, and Sabra Perry as the Arabian dancer in Coffee, the dancers who played the Mayor, his wife and their friends added a finesse to the already fine dancing of the students involved. It was a real treat to see them perform in such an intimate theater.

But I do have to mention the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier - Jennifer Ringer and James Fayette, specifically. They are the perfect pair. Ms. Ringer is the epitome of femininity and beauty - what style, poise and perfection...She is to me a true ballerina and her acting skills were there too. Her loveliness was only underscored by Mr. Fayette's strength and masculinity as her Cavalier... Their connection was obvious and really made their performance memorable.

P.S. I just found out that this version was reviewed right here on Ballet Alert in 1998 if you want to read it click on this: http://www.balletale...98/Patrelle.htm

December 15th, 2002 11:22 AM
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Posts: 343 Yorkville Nutcracker  
Thanks for the report, BW. I won't be able to get to it today, but it sounds charming. I hope they do it again next year, particularly since I live in Yorkville.  


(P.S. I moved a discussion from Discovering Ballet to this existing thread - sorry for the confusion!)

#25 Mary Lynn Slayden

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 06:11 AM

It has been several years since I have seen a Nutcracker. I am referring to the Nutcrackers that are typically put on by regional professional companies and their compliment of student pre-professionals and assorted young dance students during the year to promote the season
I attended Manassas Dance Company’s Nutcracker season for each of its three performances this weekend starting on December 14th. On Friday evening my party and I were in festive spirits looking forward to a Christmas treat of ballet and music by the Prince William Symphony Orchestra. The logic being that whatever took place on stage, the beautiful crescendos of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker would provide us with much pleasure. I have never counted up all the Nutcrackers Ballets I have seen but suffice it to say that I have seen many. This one appeared to me to be a fairly traditional production, be it embellished with wit and surprise.
I think Nutcracker productions here in the United States may represent some of our best “American” qualities. It also gives us a chance to enjoy live theater magic that is accessible. A large-scale production can bring the community together in a cooperative way to include school, civic and community leaders. best of all, it provides a chance for our kids to tell a story to other children. Of course they have help from the grown-ups.
I couldn't resist the tiny little playing cards doing ring- a -ring a rosy with a flamboyantly caped and eye-patched Drosselmeyer. I have seen productions where Drosselmeyer was the acne-faced teen that achieved the role because the dancer was tall enough to fit the cape. I appreciate most performances but it’s an absolute joy to see this caped master of movement and characterization. My goodness is this Manassas, Virginia?
On Sunday I had some conflicting duties so I did not arrive to turn in my ticket until way into the first act. The box office manger smiled when I flipped out my ticket and I felt a sense confidence because I was not going to be turned away! I was later told that this performance was sold out. As quietly as I could I followed the usher’s direction to an available seat. I needn’t have worried about being too quiet as the house was buzzing with soft little voices, some were more enthusiastic and all about the action taking place on stage. The Snow King and Queen were well into their pas de deux. I was captivated by the awe in the little faces and voices around me. Some were sitting on their Mom and Dad’s lap and in some cases there was little narrations occurring and were met with gasps of delight. When the snowflakes came out I heard more murmurs of pleasure. One Mom said “Oh look, there’s a snowflake” as lead Snow made her entrance. The little ones quieted as they became enchanted with the snow scene.
Act II evoked more reactions children saw a friend, a sibling, or perhaps a teacher makes an entrance on the stage. One child was so pleased to see someone she squirmed excitedly and pointed to court dancers wearing a tiara and announced, “She must be the Queen, just look at her crown”. It didn’t seem to matter to her that all of the court dancers were similarly bejeweled.
The Nutcracker Prince’s Mime told the tale with crisp and succinct gestures, which conveyed both the meaning and excitement to the viewer. He appeared to be weightless as he demonstrated the conflict between mice and soldiers.
Arabian was sensuous and provocative, while still maintaining the appropriate movement for a mixed-age audience. The couple hit just the right tone with a sense of playfulness. Their execution and accomplishment of some unpredictable choreography with dramatic lifts was done without resorting to just a series of tricks.
In my view, the principal guest artist was the quintessential Cavalier and the audience knew they were seeing good stuff. It seems often that Ballet is misunderstood. People feel that they can’t attend a ballet because they don’t “know” enough. However, when ballet is good everyone recognizes it.
The Cavalier’s partnership with his Sugar Plum was romantic and gallant. Sugar Plum was light, aristocratic but benign and crystalline sweet. The thrill of the Cavalier’s variation convinced me this first rate theater experience. My sister-in-law was brought to tears. My holiday spirit has been captured and life is good.

#26 BW

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 03:04 PM

Mary Lynn,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt description. Hooray for the recapturing of your holiday spirit!

And I loved your reflection:

It seems often that Ballet is misunderstood. People feel that they can’t attend a ballet because they don’t “know” enough. However, when ballet is good everyone recognizes it.

:)

#27 sylvia

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 10:49 AM

I went to see the Royal Ballet's first night of Nutcracker last night. It's actually the first time I've seen it at the Royal Ballet, having had to go home for Christmas year after year. I thought the whole party in Act I seemed slow and devoid of any action, plus there were a few mishaps on stage. I think I find it a little disappointing because the music is so gorgeous but it's not used well. Still the mouse battle was good fun and I love seeing the children dance. My favourite part though has to be the pdd between Clara and Hans Peter - a blue silky curtain drops down as a backdrop and the effect is dreamy. Iohna Loots was a lovely Clara though I didn't think she soars in this. Jonathan Howells I thought was quite romantic! The snowflakes, their diagonal patterns are dazzling, as are the costumes and set of Act II. Manianela Nunez almost stole the show with her warm but crisply danced Rose Fairy. Monica Mason came out before the show to explain that Darcey Bussell had the flu and Jonathan Cope had injured his back - a disappointment to many I'm sure but I don't think they could possibly have danced the Sugarplum Fairy and Prince any better than Miyako Yoshida and Ivan Putrov. They seem perfectly proportioned to each other and have the same pure style of dancing. Putrov really seems to have grown as a partner this last year - he was very attentive to Yoshida. And his short solo was beautiful - he makes it look so easy! Yoshida was fantastic. A fun afternoon!

#28 MJ

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Posted 22 December 2002 - 06:41 PM

i was going to write a long diatribe about Nutz, but decided against it. i just finished my eighth performance and am dog tired.
Just one opinion about Nutz, the music is perhaps the best ballet. Go see it live with a real live orchestra, and you will truly appreciate the beauty of the Tch. score.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

MJ

#29 vagansmom

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Posted 22 December 2002 - 10:20 PM

It was wonderful to see this Nutcracker on stage in Hartford, CT once again. These performances were a partnership involving ABT Studio Company and some ABT soloists, former principal dancers of the defunct Hartford Ballet, and dance students from The School of Dance CT (it replaced Hartford Ballet), dance students from The Hartt School of the Univ. of Hartford and also male students from Nutmeg Ballet. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra supplied the music.

In Peterson's Nutcracker, the characters are based on famous people who lived in the USA during the mid-1800's. Instead of Clara, Lotta Crabtree, a renowned actress from the 19th century, is featured. Lotta's stepfather is Junius Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth, (who is conspicuously absent from this production) and his brother (and Lotta's stepbrother) Edwin - this version's Fritz. To round out the guests, Mark Twain makes an appearance as does Joshua C. "Emperor" Norton, a colorful character in San Francisco in the 1800's but an old man here. Instead of Drosselmeyer, we see Herrmann the Great, one of the finest magicians of the 1900's in America.

For the most part, Prologue was the usual kind, with Edwin and a group of bored boys making trouble while the parents scolded them and the girls played sweetly. The girl playing Lotta was lovely and endearing. I believe she's a student with the School of Dance CT. The young man dancing Edwin (who really had the plum role of the First Act), a fine dancer in the making, trains with Nutmeg Ballet.

Herrmann the Great brings out a ladybug doll who's activated by a magical sprite followed by a dancing windup grasshopper soldier doll. (Yes, really). Sarah Lane's Ladybug was sparkling and Danny Tidwell's splits as the grasshopper were magnificent, both in height and flexibility.

One could tell that a man choreographed this Prologue: he really got the boys' parts exactly right. They plotted in the background, with Edwin as ringleader; much of the time I just wished some adult would send these kids out to play - of COURSE they'd get in trouble - they were bored! But I digress...

I was a little disappointed with the Battle Scene. All that crashing music was wasted as there was little action. The rats were adorable, dressed as miners in overalls; the soldiers appeared to be around 11 years old. But they didn't do much nor did the Nutcracker Soldier or the Boss Rat. It was, all in all, a very polite Battle. I would've liked much more action.

The Snow Faerie Queen and King danced a pas de deux after which the Snow Faeries danced. Cheryl Madeux danced the Snow Faerie Queen and Paul Thrussell was the King. Madeux's famous musicality and appealing personality were once again a delight (I miss her!). She has the ability to make you forget about everyone else on stage every time. This Snow Scene had some very nice formations, esp. during its 2nd half. One of the soloists-it was either Laura Hidalgo or Kelly Potter- had especially crisp turns.

The 2nd Act begins with a dance by little Sugar Plum Faerielettes and little Mushrooms under the shade of an ancient plum tree. The Sugar Plum Faerie Queen herself, danced by Michele Wiles pops out of the tree and Lotta soon enters with the Cavalier in a carriage drawn by a large bear! Soon Lotta sits on a branch of the tree and Saffron Faeries, danced by Kelley Potter and Alexandre Hammoudi, appear. They dance to the Spanish music; Potter's dancing was especially crisp; her "hang time" in an assisted split was impressive.

Tim Melady and Laura Hidalgo danced to the Arabian music. Here Melady's character is a shaman (wearing next to nothing) and according to program notes, she is a Golden Eagle who shed her wings to dance with him. As they dance, a giant eagle slowly flaps its wings in the background. Aside from the Sugar Plum/Cavalier, this pair garnered the most applause.

Instead of Chinese, we are treated to 3 dancing flames - two women and a man, who (courtesy of program notes again) are "sparks flying from the Ring of Fire, the creative spirit of the Earth". They "evoke the coming of the Chinese railroad workers". Danny Tidwell's dancing here stood out.

Marzipan is replaced by Lacewings; Trepak is, instead, two sea otters (although I thought they were Russian men-they wore those furry caps). The hit for the kiddies came next: a giant beehive with an equally giant bumblebee atop it. Wee little sunflowers are visited by equally wee butterflies. The hive opens and out comes a swarm of adorable little bumblebees. Eventually a large spider appears from up in the sky and descends, trying to entrap a bumblebee. The scene concludes with a visit by the bear. Very, very cute.

Plum Blossom Faeries dance the traditional Waltz of the Flowers. Standouts here are the two men partnering the female soloists. Bo Busby (I'd heard so much about him) and Daniel Keene do the honors. Both are standouts. I really liked this waltz; it was graceful and light; the corps did a fine job with some pleasing formations, and the two couples were lovely.

Sugar Plum Faerie Queen (Michele Wiles) and her Cavalier (Carlos Molina) finally enter and dance their pas de deux. I'd never seen Wiles in a solo role before. She has a very clean technique - and what gorgeous feet! I wasn't fond of the choreography though; I think of this role as designed to show off brilliance. Instead, while Wiles danced beautifully, it lacked luster. Part of it, I think, was that she herself didn't seem to command our attention, but I believe part of that lack was also the fault of the choreography. It was nice, it was in fact very nice but I wanted more than nice. Molina also danced very well but here too, I wished for something more thrilling.

The ballet concluded, as it always does, with a final coda but at the end Lotta floats away high in the air attached to a giant sequoia leaf.

#30 Amy Reusch

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Posted 23 December 2002 - 12:06 AM

After so many failed attempts to bring my child to catch the wonder of dance, I took my 4-year-old to see Kirk Peterson's Nutcracker Saturday Evening. I'd seen the production when it premiered, and so I knew the costumes & sets would be spectacular. I wasn't so sure the dancing would be what with there being no local company and students from Hartt school & Dance Connecticut providing the corps, but figured with soloists from ABT's Studio Company it would be better than any other local offering. Wow! Am I ever glad I did! Again, it was spectacular. ABT's Studio Company dancers were far better than I anticipated. (I remember the 1970s with the Joffrey II and what was ABT's old second company named... ballet rep? no... what was it?) Daniel Keene & Bo Busby were truly wonderful with those great soaring leaps in the waltz of the flowers. Watching Michele Wiles turn was sublime , even if she did seem to lose energy a bit in her sugarplum variation. Danny Tidwell had the crowd roaring with his seemingly effortless jumps in Ring of Fire (formerly Chinese/Tea)... and the Shaman/Spirit dance (formerly Arabian/Coffee) was so much better this time than in the first production. I don't know that the choreography changed, but certainly the dancing improved. There are so many wonderful touches in the choreography of the first Act, I found myself laughing regularly. Lotta Crabtree (formerly Clara/Marie) was so well danced by Nicole Jackson; she's quite the actress. I loved her self congratulatory smile in the pantomime scene as she mimed how she had distracted the Boss Rat.

I found myself wondering if the board of Hartford Ballet were there and if there were kicking themselves for having ever let go of Mr. Peterson. I wondered if seeing such a beautiful production made them long to once again support a dance company in town. But then, selfishly, I began wondering if this weren't better....that Hartford probably could never afford to maintain a company with dancers this good. At least this way, people get to see ballet at the level it should be performed at, which would inspire greater interest in dance.

Generally, the only thing this production lacks is the traditional setting, and a decent Christmas tree. I don't remember now what reason was given for it not being one of those 3-D trees, but considering the rest of the set & costumes, it's a very small flaw.

I spent the rest of the weekend shooting another non-traditional Nutcracker, this one for a school company out of Arts-In-Motion in former mill town Willimantic, CT. Here the local city history is referred to in the staging. The family is that of the owners of the thread mill that dominated the town. The battle scene is with frogs instead of rats refering back to an incident that happened shortly after the French & Indian War (a veteran colonel from that war had locals convinced that the indians were about to massacre based on the eerie "war cries" they were hearing... it turned out to be hundreds and hundreds of frogs that had left their pond & wandered out onto the lawns). The 2nd act had winged spools of thread (mother ginger), mill workers (tea?), russian stockyard boys (russian/peppermint), peurto rican immigrant girls (spanish) and valentines (the current town logo is "Romantic Willimantic"). A charming production put together by inspired volunteers, particularly considering the humble demographics the company has to draw upon.... a former mill town with no new industry to drive it, in the midst of a rural setting. It's current moniker, no longer "Thread City" but according to the Hartford Courant "Heroin City". You may be hearing about it on NPR shortly, I understand they're doing a segment on the drug problems of small towns soon.


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