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Longtime North Haven resident and dance studio owner Michelle Bonavena is invested in bringing arts lto life in her hometown. Her latest project is choreographing The New Year Nutcracker, a new twist on the classic that will run Saturday, Jan. 4 at the High Lane Club. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Michelle Bonavena’s passion for the arts has enabled a host of talented individuals and groups to come together to perform a new rendition of a beloved Christmas classic, titled The New Year Nutcracker, which will run Saturday, Jan. 4 at the High Lane Club, 40 High Lane, North Haven at 5 p.m.
Michelle, owner of Performing Art Studio BE in North Haven, is working with Spotlight Stage Company to bring the project to fruition.
Story Director Schuyler Beeman “has created this unique story line for the Nutcracker,” she says.
“It’s a magical retelling of the Nutcracker story in modern day with a closer look at Clara and her love for photography,” she adds.
Michelle’s choreography skills will be displayed in the steps and moves of the Bon Bons while Artistic Director Shannon Cushing will direct some of the leading dancers. Becky Mallico is assistant director.
“Shannon is the main choreographer and is wonderful,” Michelle says. “She is super passionate about this project.”
Although this is just one of many undertakings for the studio, helping to bring a version of the Nutcracker to North Haven is of great significance to Michelle.
“I think the most important thing is [that] we don’t have a Nutcracker of North Haven,” Michelle says. “This is right in our own backyard.”
She says the production affords the community an “artistic opportunity,” in which “parents can come and take their children to watch the Nutcracker.”
Keeping the rendition in town was achieved through the assistance of First Selectman Mike Freda.
“Mike Freda was instrumental in helping us find a venue and making sure we had every option in the town of North Haven,” Michelle says.
A longtime resident, Michelle says that her studio and choreography work for productions at the middle school afford her the opportunity “to work with a lot of wonderful people that also have great attention to keeping the arts alive in North Haven.”
She works with various age groups but says middle school students are at “the perfect age to introduce the arts on a more professional level.”
Michelle can relate to taking an interest in the arts at this age—”My love for the arts, for music and movement, has always been my driving force.”
A vocalist and dancer at an early age, Michelle pursued these areas professionally as a young adult. She performed for a televised Showtime at the Apollo and was cast in a national tour of the musical Will Rogers Follies.
“In my 20s, I found a deeper appreciation for teaching and mentoring young students, giving them confidence and building an appreciation for the arts,” she says.
Michelle pursued music in college, earning a degree in music production and technology at Mercy College in New York.
After college, she opened her studio and “was able to bring more engineering production and technology to the work that I did,” she says.
Today, Performing Art Studio BE is what she calls a “multi-faceted studio combining the recording arts with the performing arts.” She offers instruction in several areas including voice, dance, drama, and the recording arts.
“The name of the studio, ‘Be’, it’s the smallest word, but it could have the greatest meaning,” she says. “You can interpret it however you like: Be true to yourself, just be, be greater than you were yesterday.”
“I really promote that, the freedom of being an artist and being true to yourself. An artist cannot conform. They have to be able to be free…you need to be free and vulnerable when expressing yourself,” she adds.
Similarly, acceptance of others is the theme of an anti-bullying musical Her Song, for which Michelle was the head choreographer.
Having an “intention or a concept in order to make it resonate” is a key to her success in choreography.
Her Song premiered at the Ivoryton Playhouse in 2017.
Michelle says that working with the creator of Her Song, Jill Nesi, and others like her, is one of the things she enjoys most about the arts.
“The world of arts is so grand, but small,” Michelle says. “When you are involved with the arts you usually have the opportunity to meet talented people.”
She says that these types of connections help provide her students with a variety of opportunities for artistic self-expression.
“It’s wonderful, when I see a student’s growth or when they fulfill a goal they set out for themselves,” Michelle says. “It fills my heart with pride.”
To purchase tickets for The New Year Nutcracker, visit www.tututix.com/client/studiobenutcracker.
Get ready to celebrate the holidays with our helpful guide