Soldiers, mice, party-goers and more have been dancing through the hallways of the Kauffman Center throughout the fall as they prepared for December performances of the Kansas City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”
The ballet involves more than 200 young dance students from the metro area. Some are just 9 years old, but they dance alongside adults in the three casts that perform the show Dec. 1 to Dec. 23.
This is Overland Park resident Emma Blohm’s fourth year in the production. This year she was cast in the cavalry scene as well as the party scene.
Her mother, Jessica Bowers, said the show is a commitment for the entire family.
“I say we don’t have holiday season, we have ‘The Nutcracker’ season,” Bowers said. “We spend a lot of time at the ballet studio. It is like a big extended family once you’ve been in it this long.”
She described the members of the Kansas City Ballet as a well-oiled machine. She said they handle the organized chaos of 200 some young ballerinas well, with the help of the facilities at the Kaufman Center.
Emma, 12, said each Nutcracker season she looks forward to being cast in a part that allows her to act more. She said she thinks she’s picked up on the choreography for her two parts quickly. The part she plays in the party scene is her favorite.
“I remember when I was my first year in the ‘The Nutcracker’ and I was looking up to the girls in the party scene and the soldiers. I always wanted to be one of them,” Emma said.
Elizabeth Bastow, from Lee’s Summit, is one such 9-year old. This year — the first time she has performed in “The Nutcracker” — she plays one of the angels who leads Cora and the prince to the land of the sweets after the battle against the mice.
She began dancing after her grandmother, a former ballerina, enrolled her in a class.
“Ever since then, I have wanted to be a ballerina,” Elizabeth said. “Now is my perfect chance.”
Hannah Zucht, 9, of Raymore is also one of the younger ballerinas in the cast. Last year, she played an angel but this year was cast as a soldier. She said she likes her new costume of a long red vest, white tights and black ballet shoes.
Hannah’s mother, Shelley, is pleased with the level of professionalism taught to the children during the rehearsals.
“She is being exposed to how the arts are in real life,” Shelley Zucht said. “If you want to be a professional dancer then this is how much time it takes and the commitment required. It is a neat and amazing experience for these young kids and she is really lucky to be a part of it.”
Hannah looks forward to rehearsals as a chance to watch and learn from the company members.
“I want to be a professional dancer or a ballet teacher,” Hannah said. “I’ve learned you have to be really strong to do things like jump and to be on point shoes. It’s really fun and it takes a lot of hard work.”
Seventeen-year old Nora Burkitt of Plattsburg, Mo., is one of the older students in the cast. This is her second year in “The Nutcracker.” She is proud to be cast as a purple flower in the performance. She said the it was an honor for her to be chosen to dance with the company.
“At first it was kind of scary to be with the company because it is so crazy to be with the people that you admired on stage and now you are dancing along side them,” Burkitt said.
Burkitt and her mother drive an hour each way three times a week for rehearsals, but she thinks it is paying off. She has applied to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to major in dance.
She said it is important to her to push herself during rehearsals and performances so she can be a good example for the younger ballerinas.
“It is cool for the younger girls to think about us the way we think about the company members,” Burkitt said.
She said the best part of the experience is knowing that she has a role in an important piece of peoples’ holidays.
“There is so much happiness when people come to see ‘The Nutcracker’ because we are creating a tradition for them,” Burkitt said.