Dancers enjoy bringing ‘The Nutcracker’ to Park City
Park City Dance Academy’s annual production of "The Nutcracker" has become a tradition for many people in the past 12 years.
This year’s performance will be at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
For dancer Katelyn Thompson, whose roles are the Waltz Queen and Russian dancer, the performance completes her holiday season.
"I think ‘Nutcracker’ is the main way to get into the Christmas spirit," Thompson told The Park Record during a joint interview with Sissy Saarella, Isabelle Demschar and Elizabeth Colton. "The music is so iconic and well known. It is the spirit of Christmas to us here at the studio."
Saarella, who performs the roles of the Snow Queen and Russian dancer, said she enjoys spreading the holiday joy to others.
"The three of us — me, Isabelle and Katelyn — got to go perform at the elementary schools and that gets you so hyped for Christmas because you see all of these kids watching you. To them, your character is real, and that gets me excited for Christmas time."
While performing in the ballet is fun, the dancers know they can’t just go on stage and do a few jumps and pirouettes and call it good.
"Living up to the past performances is a huge responsibility," said Thompson. "While it’s ‘The Nutcracker’ and spectacular on its own, you still want to leave your own mark on it."
That rings especially true to Saarella and Demschar, who, along with Thompson, are seniors who will perform their last "Nutcracker" with Park City Dance Academy.
"It’s definitely a bittersweet moment because we’ve been here so long and worked so hard to get to where we are now," said Saarella who has been dancing at the studio for 14 years. "Doing it with these other two seniors is amazing because they’re like my sisters. It’s going to be sad after because we won’t do this ever again."
Angel Queen and Snow Demi-Soloist Demschar, who has been at the studio for nine years, agreed.
"There is a bit of nervousness because being seniors, this is the last time we’ll get to perform on the Eccles Center stage, which is so spectacular," she said. "Knowing this is crazy, because you have to make it good because it’s your last."
Thompson, who has also danced with the studio for nine years, said she will be devastated after the production ends.
"We all looked forward to ‘The Nutcracker’ every year," she said. "We all grew up together. We experienced all the awkward fazes, braces, boyfriend breakups and school dances. We have made it so far and have done some great things, but it is time to move on."
The transition will be strange for Colton, who will graduate from the academy next year.
"It will be so different without them here," said Colton, who is cast as the Princess Doll and Snow Demi-Soloist. "They have always been the team that I’ve looked up to, but I’m so glad I get one more year because I’m definitely not ready to call this my last year. I really don’t know how I’m going to live up to what they’ve done."
Colton remembers her first "Nutcracker" at the academy, clearly.
"Sissy was the Princess Doll, which is what I’m dancing this year," she said. "Since I saw her do that, I always wanted to do it. And now that I’m the Princess Doll, I want to give that same experience Sissy gave to me to someone else."
Throughout the years, as the four dancers have moved up in the ranks, they have seen their technique mature as well.
"I think ‘Nutcracker’ is a good training device for us," Saarella said. "It helps us with our technique and shows us how important stage presence is and how important it is to have the ability as a dancer to portray stories and your characters."
Demschar said she has become a stronger dancer by dancing in "The Nutcracker."
"A lot of the rehearsals are one on one with our teachers and they are always telling us to do something again and again," she said. "I mean, you learn the part and go through each step and then you go over it in class and the teachers give tips on how to improve."
Dancing different roles also helps with stage presence and technique.
"It gets very crazy because I’ll go out at one point portraying a Russian male dancer, so I’m out there jumping and acting super happy," Thompson said. "Then a couple of dances later, I have to change into the Waltz Queen and that’s a seven-minute piece that takes a lot of concentration because it’s the ‘Waltz of the Flowers.’ That is so different than the Russian dancing."
Dancing as the Princess Doll is a special challenge for Colton.
"You have to change your entire persona," she said. "As a doll, I have to think of myself as being plastic and stiff, and I can only move my shoulders and hands in certain ways and make sure my face doesn’t move.
"Then I have to go from being the doll to being a Snow Demi-Soloist, which is light, fluid and airy," she said. "It’s difficult, but so much fun."
The dancers said they could not perform in "The Nutcracker" if it weren’t for their teachers.
"They are like our moms," Demschar said. "They are our backbone, even though we may not agree with them all the time. They are our trainers and have to be hard on us. But at the same time, they are the most loving people."
"They all want to see us succeed and that is really cool to have that support," she said.
Park City Dance Academy will present its annual "Nutcracker" at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 19, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $25 for adults and $20 to $15 for children. Tickets can be purchased at the Park City Dance Academy, 6554 Creekside Lane at Kimball Junction, or by visiting http://www.parkcitydance.com . Tickets will also be available at the door the day of the performances.
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