Auditions have been held and practices will soon be underway for the 2019 performance of “The Nutcracker” hosted by the Lincoln Cultural Center. This year, 123 students auditioned for role(s) in the performance. Lincoln Cultural Center executive director Cathy Davis, as well as Morgan Wise, helped out with the judging and kept the paperwork organized. The name of the main judge is kept private.
“We’re looking at technique, form, making sure they’re keeping their faces up and smiling and keeping their character,” said Wise, who was a former dancer in “The Nutcracker.”“Their arms and hands are all part of technique. They also need to be graceful and poised because this is a ballet.”
Davis said that the ones that impressed them the most in the group that were auditioning at the time were those that were “staying on their box,” meaning that the dancer is fully up on her toes or “en pointe” during the performance. There should be no gap between the floor and the shoe.
“If they don’t it’s really easy to slip and fall and cause injury,” Wise said. “They have to have the power in their ankles to push all the way over. It looks like an over-extension but you kind of have to over-extend to get fully on your box.”
Not all roles with “The Nutcracker” require the dancers to be en pointe, in fact, most are not.
“What’s interesting for me to watch in these auditions, now that I’ve been at the Cultural Center for nine years, is watching these girls grow,” Davis said. “I love seeing how they mature in their art form from year to year. It gets me excited.”
Lincoln County Apple Queen Kayla Jackson was at the auditions leading the dancers in their routines. She had the coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in last year’s performance. She’ll be dancing again this year as a debutante. Jackson’s Apple Queen platform is to be an advocate for the arts and she’s already been fulfilling that promise with helping out with the auditions.
“I can remember when I auditioned,” she said. “It was very stressful. I really freaked myself out. In the end it was definitely worth it.”
One may wonder if it was an accident that two of the last three winners of the Lincoln County Apple Pageant danced in “The Nutcracker.” Ana Acela Pérez Ochoa, who won the pageant in 2017, danced the role of the maid in the 2016 production.
“Being a dancer allows you to have poise naturally,” Jackson said. “You have to, whether you dance competitively or recreationally. You have to have some kind of posture set in order to be a dancer. I do think it gave me an advantage in the way I presented myself.”
The lead choreographer this year is Mary Claire Brown, a lifelong Lincoln County resident and teacher with Star-Struck Dance Studio in Lincolnton. She’ll be changing it up this year, using choreographer George Balanchine's version.
“This is our favorite time of the year,” she said. “Getting ready for ‘Nutcracker.’ There are a couple of different versions of it and we’ve chose to do Balanchine this year. It’s a little different, every dance company has a different version of what they do.”
One of the new additions that Brown has added is that there’ll be a “little” Clara and a “dream” Clara. When little Clara, who dances demi pointe, falls asleep, dream Clara will be dancing the parts en pointe.
Many of the dancers who auditioned this year have come year after year, starting out with roles like Bon-Bons or Angels and, as their dancing advances, they audition for more advanced roles.
Katie Kester has danced in numerous productions and was trying out for either the Snow Queen or Sugar Plum Fairy.
“I’ve been working a lot en pointe and with ballet classes, making sure I’m getting over my box and working on my performance,” she said. “I feel pretty confident.”
This year, Kester will be dancing the role of the Reed Flute Princess and as one of the Snow Crystals.
This was Emily Gunter’s first time trying out for “The Nutcracker.”
“It was my senior year and I figured I’d just go for it,” she said.
Gunter will be dancing as a Snowflake and as a Senorita.
The coveted role of the Snow Queen went to Maddie Price. Carlee Starns will be the Sugar Plum Fairy. The part of the Dew Drop Fairy will be danced by Katie Starns. Little Clara will be Karrigan Starns and Dream Clara will be Hadleigh Curles. Tyson Beal will be the Nutcracker and FaTima Grace Errami will be the Mouse King.