More than 80 young dancers are deep in preparation for the 2020 production of the Lincoln County “Nutcracker” youth ballet. Given how disrupted the lives of these young people has been since March, the normality of preparing for this beloved production gives many comfort. As with so many events, the performance will look different this year – but the show will go on.
“We’ll be selling a small number of tickets for each performance, per the Governor’s regulations, with additional performances being scheduled,” Lincoln Cultural Center Director Cathy Davis said. “We will also be adding a virtual option this year that can be purchased by patrons that prefer to watch from home.”
This year, six outside judges were brought in to pick the dancers for each role. As she did last year, Lincoln County resident Mary Claire Brown will be the lead choreographer and once again using choreographer George Balanchine's version of the ballet. There’ll be a “Clara,” danced this year by 12-year-old Halle Grace Devine and a “Dream Clara,” performed by Halle Schmidt, a junior at North Lincoln High School.
While the two “Claras” will not be seen together on the stage and both have the name “Halle,” in last year’s production, both Devine and Schmidt performed together as Chinese.
“Everything is going beautifully,” Brown said. “Except for some dances being changed here and there because of the girls who are cast in different roles, everything will be the same as last year. The Reed Flute, toy soldier and mice costumes are new this year. We’re doing well keeping everyone safe. If the girls don’t feel well, they don’t come to practice.”
Practices are being held at Star Struck Dance Studio which has been expanded to include a massive studio that enables dancers from numbers like the party scene can be practiced together.
“When our studio hosts a full cast practice, we’ll be in here,” Brown said. “Last year it was tight. We have smaller cast this year because we made the age requirement eight and up. For some of these girls, this is all they have. Some of them can’t even go to school due to COVID shutdowns.”
Like so many of the dancers performing in lead roles, Schmidt has both been dancing in the “Nutcracker” for multiple years, starting out as a Bon Bon, and worked extremely hard to improve her skills. The judges noticed.
“This is not the part that I was expecting – I wanted it, but didn’t think I could get it,” she said. “I was really surprised when I got it. I didn’t let nerves get in the way of how I performed in auditions which I think helped me a lot. Taking part in the ‘Nutcracker’ allows me to be a part of a team because of how hard we all work together to get the production look its best. It’s bigger than just yourself – there’s no solo parts, we all work together.”
Brown agreed that Schmidt worked her “behind off” to get this role and that hard work pays off.
“Cathy Davis and I call every lead role to let the know they got it,” she said. “I called Halle – I call her ‘Hulu’ and she couldn’t believe she got it. She never in a million years expected it. That’s the best. I love it.”
Devine, affectionately called “Peanut” by Brown attends East Lincoln Middle School. Devine was adopted from Vietnam when she was nine months old. This will be her sixth-year dancing in the “Nutcracker.” Like Schmidt, she started out as a Bon Bon. She really wanted the Clara role and like Schmidt, has worked hard over the past year, according to Brown.
“I like to do the acting in ‘Nutcracker,’” she said. “Dancing relaxes me because you can show your emotions and get stuff off your chest if you’re feeling stressed.”
The following dancers and performers will be taking part in the 2020 production.
Clara - Halle Grace Devine
Dream Clara - Halle Schmidt
Sugar Plum Fairy - Hadleigh Curles
Snow Queen - Mollie Gilmore
Snow Crystals - Gwyn Reep, Cambyn Lee, Shaylee Craig, Mia Caudell
Spanish Queen - Gwyn Reep
Senoritas - Kallie Barker, Shaylee Craig, Katie Starnes, Ella Parker, Emily Stroupe, Lily McBride
Arabian Queen - Rieonna Weldon
Chinese - Madison Dexter, Lauren Dexter
Reed Flute Queen - Sidney Black
Reed Flutes - Olivia Frederick, Mia Caudell, Kerrigan Starnes, Reese Martin
Dew Drop Fairy - Emma Grace Ramsey
American Beauties - Madison Crowder, Kaitlyn Thompson
Ballerina Doll - Reese Martin
Toy Soldier Doll - Cheyanne Trinchere
Jester Doll - Jade Asaro
Fritz - Ella Spivey
Snowflakes - Kallie Barker, FaTima Errami, Emma Grace Ramsey, Olivia Fredrick, Kaitlyn Thompson, Sidney Black, Ella Parker, Lily McBride, Hadleigh Curles, Rieonna Weldon, Madison Crowder, Emily Stroupe, Sadie Boyles, Jade Asaro, Presley Smith
Russians - Halle Grace Devine, Khole Weldon, Kerrigan Starns, Emily Parker, Hope Bryant, Claire Dimura, Camdyn Lee, Kennedy Low, Hannah Martin, Madilynn Black, Presley Smith, Helayna Myers, Mia Lebaron
Flowers - Emily Parker, Helayna Myers, Claire Dimura, Ella Spivey, Cheyanne Trinchere, Madilyn Black, Kennedy Low, Madison Dexter, Lauren Dexter, Mia LeBaron, Mikayla Purser, Adyson Nestor
Chinese Boy - Khole Weldon
Mouse King - Hope Bryant
Bon Bons - Lexi Gaidelock, Gracie Thompson, Addisyn Ramsey, Maryin Ginkel, Suzanna Beam, Addison Ball, Emma Cuasby, Lakelyn Weldon, Cate Hullette
Soldiers - Sarah Greer, Kara Burgin, Aubrie Williams, Reece Edwards, Lexie Bolton, Sarah Stewart, Eldon Jackson, Rachel Gilbert, Mackenzie Newell, Caroline Brantley
Mice - Maylee McBride, Izzie Moore, Macie Gordon, Raylynn Banister, Aaah Heafner, Karson Faith Brooks, Morgan Low, Sienna Heafner, Anslee Blackburn, Amy Andiro
Nanny - Mikayla Purser, Carson Cherry, Hannah Martin, Sadie Boyles
Party Kids - Adyson Nestor, Kara Burgin, Izzie Moore, Sarah Greer, Reece Edwards, Karson Faith Brooks, Maylee McBride, Morgan Bolick, Lizzie Lebaron, Mackenzie Newell, Reece Heafner, Lexie Bolton, Aubrie Williams, Lydia Stewart, Zoey Jasinski, Allie Underwood
Angels - Karlie Crabtree, Ava Price, Molly Duren, Kaylee Trinchere, Addison Sizemore, Clara Green, Kylie Bumgarner, Payton Black, Madelyn Barger, Tessa Metcalf, Gabby Moore, Bianca Lewis
Debutantes - Madison Crowder, Rieonna Weldon, Mollie Gilmore, Emily Stewart, FaTima Grace Errami, Isabella Brown, Kallie Barker, Hadleigh Curles, Presley Smith, Gwyn Reep
Mother - Morgan Wise
Father - Grayson Nolen
Grandmother - Jolene Neilson
Grandfather - Jason Ramsey
Drosselmyer - Mike Wirth
Mother Ginger - Ash Wirth
The Lincoln Cultural Center will be releasing information on show dates, instructions on purchasing tickets, either in person or remote in the coming weeks.