‘The Nutcracker’ is a Park City Dance Academy tradition
Park City Dance Academy presented its first "Nutcracker" in 2002, in hopes that the production would become a holiday tradition.
After 11 years, it’s safe to say it has.
The tradition continues with two performances at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts at Park City High School, on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
One of the secrets of the production’s longevity is that directors Trish Ryland and Sandy Flury know when it’s time to revamp and change some of the variations in the story.
This year, there are three new segments, Ryland said during an interview with The Park Record.
"We added a sections during the Mother Buffoon piece that involves jesters," Ryland said. "We have new costumes designed by one of the seamstresses from Ballet West."
Another new scene is a magic-puppet variation, featuring Adam Snyder, a Park City High School student who has been dancing for two years.
"Adam is the magician who brings these puppets to life," Ryland said. "The segment was choreographed by Michelle Player."
Snyder is also in the third new number, which is the tarantella.
"We had a tarantella last year, but we’ve expanded it this year," Ryland said. "Adam and Ella Broegh will be dancing it together in a pas de deux."
Snyder and Broegh, who attends the Salt Lake Performing Arts School in Salt Lake City, said learning the steps to the new tarantella proved challenging.
"Since this is essentially a new piece in ‘The Nutcracker,’ there weren’t others who had danced it before," Broegh said. "There were no videos or recordings, so we couldn’t see how it was supposed to be done.
That meant Broegh and Snyder had to literally step into the piece and make it their own.
"We really had to find ways of getting in character for the new dance," Broegh said. "That was a little daunting."
Another challenge was the partnering.
"The tarantella is a partner dance and it’s one of our first experience partnering," Snyder said. "The reason partnering is difficult is because you not only have to worry about yourself, but also the person you’re dancing with. But it pays off at the end."
That rings true for some of the other dancers.
The Arabian Queen, played by Lizzy Arias, who attends Park City High School, said her favorite part of learning a new piece is seeing how much she can progress as a dancer in a certain role.
"I love pushing myself," Arias explained. "It’s great to become another person while dancing. It’s all about embodying the character while keeping the control and performing at the same time."
Her cast-mate Isabel Demschar, agreed. Demschar dances as the Princess Doll, a role that possesses its own challenges.
"As a dancer, you’re trained to be elegant and light," said Demschar, who is also a student at PCHS. "As the Princess Doll, you have to convey an aura of brokenness, in a sense. I have to make everything a little robotic."
Good characterization isn’t just a part of the puzzle, said Waltz Queen Sissy Saarela.
Her "Nutcracker" challenge is maintaining her stamina.
"I have one of the longest dances and it clocks in around seven minutes," Saarela said. "It’s hard to keep light all the way through, and I have to work at not getting tired halfway through the dance."
Still, the hard work is just part of the reward that comes with performing "The Nutcracker," said Sawyer Player, who will appear as the Snow Queen.
"One of my favorite things about all this is the process that we follow until we’re performing," she said. "We get the opportunity to work with the dancers who we looked up to when they danced the roles we’re dancing. It’s neat to hear what they say about our roles while they coach us."
Being a role model is important to Emma Dobkin, who will perform as the Spanish Queen this year.
"In the past two years, I was Mother Buffoon, which is a character that takes care of the younger kids," she said. "I loved that role because I got to know the younger girls."
Dobkin also said she is grateful for the friends she has made at the Park City Dance Academy, and how working on productions such as "The Nutcracker" have brought her closer to the others.
"It may sound cheesy, but I get to spend all this time with some of my best friends," she said.
Upon hearing those words, the other dancers emitted a bunch of "oohs."
"We’re like a bunch of sisters and a brother," she said. "It’s great to see them every single day."
Ryland said she is proud of each dancer and said she couldn’t have asked for a better cast.
"All these kids are so poised and responsible," she said. "They are great kids and wonderful dancers."
The Park City Dance Academy will present "The Nutcracker" at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children. For more information, visit http://www.parkcitydance.com.
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Park City Summit County Arts Council will host Art on the Trails, an event that will celebrate local performing artists.