FHC students perform in variations of The Nutcracker every holiday season

FHC students perform in variations of The Nutcracker every holiday season

The lights flash on the stage. A blinding white light revealing a young girl and her brother engaged in an energetic dance across the stage. It’s opening night of The Nutcracker. And just like every year, every member of the audience is scarcely breathing as they watch the dancers leap and spin and unravel the story of Clara and the Nutcracker.

At FHC there are a handful of students who every year participate in putting on The Nutcracker. This year, for the first time of her ballet career, junior Payton Field performed the roles of Snow and Flower in The Nutcracker as a trainee and company member of the Grand Rapids Ballet.

“I really liked doing Snow and Flower because I did that with the company– the professional company,” Payton said. “And that was my first professional part that I did, and so it was really monumental. It was pretty hard but was also a lot of fun.”

Dancing with the professional company may be an absolutely amazing opportunity for Payton but it is her love for dance that drives her.

“My favorite thing to do is to perform,” Payton said, “and I love the thrill of being on stage and getting to share what I love. I like portraying different characters. I got to do Tiger Lily last year and I also got to be a sassy Spanish lady another year, so that was a lot of fun. It’s fun for me to transform into a new person and take on a different role. I like being able to show people that all of the time I spend doing it actually pays off– it’s not just twirling on my toes.”

That thirst to perform in front of crowds of people is quenched when performing The Nutcracker due to the crowds that swarm to the performance halls to watch dancers paint Clara’s story.

“Each year I get to perform The Nutcracker at the Devos Performance Hall, which is a really big stage, and there’s a lot of people,” Payton said. “I like performing in front of a lot of people because you’re just standing on stage, and you can’t see anyone but you can just hear kind of their auras. You can hear their silence if that makes sense. There are eight shows total, so I get to perform in front of a lot of people.”

In a different performance hall in a different part of our city is The Nutcracker put on by the West Michigan Youth Ballet. While in many ways similar to the performance put on by the Grand Rapids Ballet, each had their own unique take on the story.

“At West Michigan Youth Ballet it’s a bunch of young girls from wherever, whatever company,” West Michigan Youth Ballet dancer and sophomore Cakki Mehney said. “It’s not like an actual company that does dances throughout the year. They just have the two dances. A spring show and a winter show of The Nutcracker. So people from all different companies come in to do that. But there is also Grand Rapids Ballet and other companies [that put on The Nutcracker.]”

Even after a few years of participating in The Nutcracker, the thrill of it has never lessened for Cakki.

“I think all of it’s pretty fun,” Cakki said. “It’s a chance to make new friends and get closer to the friends you already have– and perform, which is always fun.”

Dancing alongside Cakki in The Nutcracker at West Michigan Youth Ballet is FHC sophomore Olivia Throop.

“Ballet is the most satisfying thing I could ever do,” Olivia said. “Everything about it calms my nerves and makes me feel whole, from the precision of the technique that you can always improve to the gracefulness that comes with every movement. There is not a better feeling than the first time you perform a show onstage with full costume and perfect hair and makeup. Ballet is my whole life and without ballet, I don’t know who I would be.”

She loves every aspect of ballet and has found her place on the stage. But each year Olivia is extra excited to dance in The Nutcracker due to its meaning to those in the community and the chance to be around other dancers and staff.

“My favorite part of Nutcracker is performing the final product at the Fine Arts Center after months of rehearsals,” Olivia said. “It is an amazing rush that I look forward to every year. I especially love Nutcracker because I love the tradition that comes with it and the people I get to share the experience with. The dancers and staff in the company are the friendliest people I have ever met, and they are an essential part of the fun of Nutcracker.”

As loved as The Nutcracker is by all the dancers that partake in it, it’s equally loved by the throngs of people who come year after year to watch the performance.

The Nutcracker is different from other performances because it is a thing that people look forward to every year,” Olivia said. “It is a tradition in many people’s lives and is a fun, interesting story for the whole family. The Nutcracker includes parts for dancers of all levels, and it brings many company members together because we spend every Sunday with each other from August to December. The Nutcracker is also a great way to get into the holiday spirit.”