Mt. Hood Dance Academy to perform Christmas ballet Dec. 15

Nicolina Williams, 12, a sixth-grader at Dexter McCarty Middle School, sums up her fondness for ballet by hitting several marks.

“I love ballet because it’s so beautiful,” she says. “You get to dance and wear pretty costumes and wear pointe shoes, and it’s something I’ve loved since I was little.”

Williams will have plenty to do in Mt. Hood Dance Academy’s Saturday, Dec. 15, performance of “The Nutcracker” at Reynolds High School.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Students at Mt. Hood Dance Academy in Gresham practice a scene as angels in 'The Nutcracker,' the famous Christmas ballet. Below, Madison Burgin rehearses her role as Clara in Mt. Hood Dance Academy´s upcoming production of 'The Nutcracker.'

Located in Gresham, the academy will bring 60 performers on stage from ages 4 through 18 for two performances of Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmas piece, says Debbie Pierce, director of the academy’s ballet department.

Williams will dance several roles, including that of a child in a party scene, a flower, a Spaniard, a soldier, a member of the snow corps and as lead candy cane.

“She gets to have a special part in the dance, and she gets to wear a crown, and it’s a lot of fun, and I’m excited to be a part of the show,” Williams says, barely containing her enthusiasm.

Interestingly, it’s not her role as lead candy cane she finds most challenging, it’s dancing with the snow corps.

“You have to work to be a part of the team, and you have to work together on your timing,” she says.

Williams adds that she practices her steps several hours a week and has set her sights high for the future.

“I want to go somewhere and be a big part of a studio where they have professionals.”

A girl’s dream

Speaking of grand visions, Madison Burgin, 12, a seventh-grader at Walt Morey Middle School, will perform as both the Snow Queen and as Clara, the girl who dreams the entire ballet. She also will dance as a member of the snow and flower corps as well as a Chinese person.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Madison Burgin rehearses her role as Clara in Mt. Hood Dance Academys upcoming production of The Nutcracker.

“My favorite thing about playing Clara is all the acting you get to do,” she says. “You get to be dancing with Uncle Drosselmeyer (who brings the children the Nutcracker toy) and the Rat King and the Nutcracker. It’s pretty easy, but it’s a lot to learn, and I think the thing I struggle with the most is the acting. I think I focus more on my dance technique, and I need to worry more about my stage expressions and facial expressions.”

She adds this is the first time she’ll be on stage dancing with a male partner, namely the Snow King, portrayed by Nick Daley.

“What’s more difficult about dancing with a partner is you have to be more strong in your movements because it’s hard to lift and hard to control,” she says, noting her routine include multiple turns and leaps. Nonetheless, she’s game to try.

“I love to express myself through my movements,” she says. “This is the only thing I have to do besides school, and it keeps me busy.”

Like her fellow students, Arianna Kahler-Quesada, 17, a Reynolds High senior, will dance several roles, including that of Dew Drop as well as a member of the snow and flower corps, a Russian and a Spanish dancer and as a mother in the party scene.

“I’ve never done (Dew Drop) before so it’s interesting to see how that role works,” she says. “I really enjoy being a part of something but having a lead role as well.”

She believes audiences will find “The Nutcracker” a visually arresting experience.

“It’s kind of like watching a movie on stage,” she says.

And like a good movie, ballet is a healthy form of escapism, she says.

“It de-stresses me,” Kahler-Quesada says. “It’s just somewhere I can forget about the world and just dance and all the stresses about school and life go away.”

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