Going “Nuts” … The joy of being in The Nutcracker

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From left to right, Gabi Chauta, Lily Wells, and I were backstage opening night preparing to go on stage.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been “going nuts.’’ I have been involved with the Nutcracker of Middle Georgia.

Starting at age 8, local dancers have the opportunity to audition for a part in the Nutcracker, a holiday tradition in Middle Georgia. It has been a part of my life since the third grade.

My mother and grandmother took me to the see The Nutcracker at the Grand Opera House when I was 3 years old. After the show, my heart was set on one day being a part of it. It has been a funny story in my family that I wanted to be the Rat King because it was my favorite character. But things have changed!

When I turned 8, I was so excited because I knew I could audition. My mom talked with my dance teacher at the time, and we made the decision to try out. We went with a couple of other girls for a long day, ending in me getting casted as toy soldier.

My first two years of The Nutcracker, I was a toy soldier. My third year, I got to showcase my flexibility by being a jester. The next three years I was a little girl, or also known as a party girl.

This is my seventh year as a member of the cast. The Nutcracker will be performed on Dec. 5-9 at the Grand Opera House. My role is Chinese Tea which is a trio. We perform with Chinese fans and parasols in authentic Chinese costumes. It’s an upbeat dance with small, quick movements to original Chinese music.

There are many people who participate in The Nutcracker here at Stratford. (Just drive around the parking lot and look at all of the cars with the nutcracker paintings on their windows!)

This year, there are three teachers that are playing various roles. French teacher Mrs. Rachel Chabot has been cast a mother in the party scene. Her husband, Jeff, plays the role of a father.

Last year, when I was a little girl, Mr. and Mrs. Chabot  were my “parents.” Now, she is my home room and French teacher. We have great memories of me playing the role of their daughter for three months.

History teacher Mr. Stephen O’Hara will be a father in the party scene, and math teacher Mr. Bobby Stecher will be a rat … a female rat actually!

Upper school students participating in this year’s production are McKay Powers, and Carter and Samantha Atkinson, Carly Blackwood and myself.

In middle school, Ginna Ross, Mary Lois Mitchell, Abby Rose Perkel, Annie Baxley, Elinor Fenimore, Suri Nguyen, Sophia Tang, and Anna Grace Wangerin.

Emma Terry, Mary Marwood and Carsie Sims, Romina Rubio, Martha Rauls, Kathryn Mitchell, Ashby Hill, Ella Hart, Kelty Glenn, and Annie Buzzell represent the lower school.

Being in this production for this long has been the best part of each year. Christmas time wouldn’t be the same without this show and the excitement that comes with it. With Christmas tree and presents on stage, the snow scene, and the beautiful Christmas scenery, you feel plenty of holiday cheer.

Not a year goes by I don’t cry after the final performance. I have a such a strong love for the feeling when you are on stage and the lights hit your face. You aren’t yourself any more. You are a character that you have worked so hard to play.

When I exit the stage, it gets harder each time. As I get older and I know that my life in The Nutcracker is coming to an end with each performance, I try to enjoy each second on the Grand Opera House stage.

One of my favorite parts of being involved with this production is the bond that is formed with the other dancers. Each practice and rehearsal, you get closer with the people around you. Since I am in a trio this year, I am very close with the two other dancers playing Chinese.

Gabi Chauta, Lily Wells  and I have rehearsals almost every weekend with artistic director Mrs. Alice Sheridan. It is fun being with each other constantly and sharing this passion. Downstairs, in the dressing room before going up on stage, so much goes on. In the dressing rooms, we listen to music, play card games, do our make-up, and laugh and smile constantly.

The phrase “Going Nuts” comes from the dancers and faculty who get so excited for the upcoming shows to where we go crazy. There isn’t one person who is involved in The Nutcracker who isn’t going “nuts” the whole year waiting for early December.

Having practices every weekend is hard. It limits certain opportunities,  but it is completely worth it.

It such a blessing to be able to perform and show the beauty of ballet to the audience through this show. Some people aren’t widely exposed to ballet but this is the perfect opportunity to witness its greatness.

On opening day, Wednesday, we perform in front of fifth-grade students from various Bibb County schools in the morning, then the opening show later that day. Getting to be the performer, it’s a privilege and a honor to tell this Christmas story to our community.  

My love for The Nutcracker has changed my perspectives on so many things in my life. It opens up your eyes, introduces you to new people who share your passion, and gives you an opportunity to be a character during the best time of the year.

It’s not the Christmas season without the performance of The Nutcracker.