‘The Nutcracker’ is a Park City tradition
What: Park City “Nutcracker”
When: 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21
Where: The Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.
As Utah’s Ballet West celebrates the 75th anniversary of its inaugural performance of Willam F. Christensen’s “The Nutcracker,” the Fredrick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy Peggy Bergman Park City Campus will join in the festivities with its own production on Saturday at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
The rendition, which the academy will perform at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., combines original choreography with Christiansen’s staging that was inspired by the 1892 two-act ballet by Marius Petipa and Tchaikovsky.
For dancers Hannah Peers and Kesler Colton, the Park City production has become part of their own traditions.
Peers, a 17-year-old senior at Park City High School, will dance the Angel Queen, a role she has prepared for since she was 8.
“My first role was actually one of the angels, and now I’m their queen,” Peers said. “I remember when I was an angel, and I would look up to the older dancers who were Angel Queens. So to be here and part of that role means a lot to me because I know the younger girls look up to me.”
The responsibility makes Peers, who has danced the role of Young Clara, as well as in the Chinese and Arabian variations, want to be a better dancer and a better person, she said.
“I realize that even little things like being on time to class or learning proper ballet etiquette goes a long way with these younger dancers,” she said.
Colton, who at 15 is a professional Ballet West trainee in Salt Lake City, will take on the role of Snow Prince.
Like Peers, Colton grew up idolizing the older dancers in that role.
“It’s exciting to me to perform a role on stage that I had only watched when I was a kid,” said Colton, who started dancing at the academy when he was 6 and has performed other roles such as the Young Prince and Spanish male lead in past performances. “So, it’s definitely exciting to go back, but this time as a better dancer, and an improved version of what I was when originally danced there.”
Colton was asked to become a Ballet West trainee two years ago.
“It meant a lot to be offered a position in the program, although it was a little overwhelming at first,” he said. “It has always been a plan for me since I was little to end up training at a professional level, and since I joined my dancing has improved (exponentially). The training has helped me become a more disciplined person, worker and artist.”
Colton and Peers have both wanted to dance since they were children.
Colton cited the Fox TV program “So You Think You Can Dance” and his older sisters as his main influences.
“They all got me into competition dancing, and from the little competition I did, I discovered ballet, and new I wanted to pursue it as a career,” he said.
Peers’ older sisters also inspired her to dance.
“They danced at Park City Dance, before it became Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy,” Peers said. “I just followed in their footsteps, and I just love it.”
While Colton and Peers enjoy dance, they have faced their own challenges over the years.
Injuries are Colton’s biggest worry.
“I have a major toe strain on my bunion joint,” he said. “It happened a month and a half ago. It may last a couple more months, or it may last longer, but it’s very painful and hard to work around, but I do what I need to do.”
Peers’ trials are more social- and school-oriented.
“I made a commitment to go to dance for three to four hours every day,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard with homework and the regular stress of high school of trying to be a normal student and hang out with friends. But I realize the commitment pays off when you do get big roles and do get to perform. “
Colton enjoys building trust with his dancing partners.
“You learn how to do those big lifts and tricks,” he said. “And when you do them right, there’s nothing like hearing the applause.”
Peers is honored to be part of “The Nutcracker.”
“I love telling people that I’m in production, because I know so many people who go see the performances as their yearly traditions,” she said. “I love helping them feel the Christmas spirit.”
Colton, who plans to make dance a career, said even when he retires, he will still seek out a “Nutcracker” production near him.
“It’s a great tradition, and I think everyone should see at least one production,’ he said. “There’s something magical about it.”
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