The Art Of The Dance

The Eastern Shore Ballet Theatre Opens Its 29th Season With A Holiday Classic — The Nutcracker

As it embarks on its 29th season, the Salisbury-based Eastern Shore Ballet Theatre (ESBT) continues to bring beautiful classical ballet to Delmarva audiences. Since it was founded in 1991, hundreds of young dancers from the Lower Eastern Shore have performed in its beloved The Nutcracker and other productions, such as Alice in Wonderland, Coppelia and Peter Pan.

“From its inception, this company has been ambitious,” said Leslie Belloso, a member of the Theatre’s board of directors.

From humble beginnings and without funding, founder Betty Webster and original artistic director Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith created a full-length Nutcracker production. Webster, who has taught generations of dancers at her business, Studio of Dance, in Salisbury, and the late Akinfieva-Smith, a gifted dancer and teacher trained at the Imperial Ballet School (now the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet), set a high bar for their production, with demanding choreography and dazzling hand-sewn costumes.

“The arts feed the soul, and dance is one of the great arts,” said Webster.

ESBT’s second artistic director, Elena Manakhova-Amy, herself an international award-winning prima ballerina, continues the company’s high standards. Manakhova-Amy was one of the dancers in the 249th graduating class of the Vaganova Academy. As artistic director, she envisions every aspect of the ballet, from choreography to costumes, props to sets, while teaching its choreography to its more than 80 members. In April 2019, Manakhova-Amy unveiled the company’s newest ballet, Peter Pan, which combined ballet choreography with performers flying from cables.

During its nearly three-decade history, many of the Theatre’s dancers have gone on to successful careers in dance and choreography, most recently Da’Von Doane at the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Donna and Vanessa Salgado at CONTINUUM Contemporary Ballet on Broadway and Shelby Trenary at Peconic Ballet Theatre on Long Island.

Eastern Shore Ballet Theatre will present its 29th edition of The Nutcracker December 6-8 at Wicomico High School in Salisbury. For tickets or more information about ESBT, visit

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