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The Student News Site of Concord-Carlisle Regional High School

The Voice

Concord-Carlisle High School's Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Concord-Carlisle Regional High School

The Voice

Concord-Carlisle High School's Student Newspaper

Commonwealth Ballet Company’s The Nutcracker: Exclusive on Eight CCHS Dancers! 

While the season of decorated trees may be a thing of the past, warm winter memories of The Nutcracker fill our days with glee like a present! The Commonwealth Ballet Company held nine performances of The Nutcracker, including a special sensory family-friendly performance at the Eleanor Welch Casey Theater in Weston, Massachusetts during the end of November and early December.  The Nutcracker is one of the most famous ballet performances, following the story of a young girl named Clara. Since 1892, The Nutcracker has brought joy and laughter to people of all ages. From the magical scenes to the dancers’ graceful movements, it truly is a sight to see!

The Nutcracker. Photo Courtesy of Christina Drake and the Commonwealth Ballet Company.

Several dancers from Concord Carlisle Regional High School took to the stage night after night, with one individual, Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa, out due to a recent injury. Of these eight dancers, six are seniors and two are sophomores. The seniors are Livia Capello, Christina Drake, Elle Ricker, Marina Ricker, Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa, and Madeleine Smith. The sophomores are Nika Lysyj and Evelyn Mudge. All of these individuals have worked tirelessly to create such breathtaking performances; it was a true pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss ballet a little more with several of these dedicated dancers.  

Christina Drake

Christina started dancing ballet when she was three years old. She says “I enjoy it because I am proud of the fact that I can create, share, and be a part of something beautiful. As a bonus, dance is great exercise and, in my opinion, is way more fun than lifting weights or running.” She takes classes at the Acton School of Ballet and she has performed in story ballets with the Commonwealth Ballet Company. She has auditioned for the production of The Nutcracker every year since she was nine. She is now 17 years old and just wrapped up her final show with them. This year, she had two roles: a mouse in the battle scene and an angel who welcomes Clara to the Land of Sweets. She states these roles were some of her favorites ever for different reasons. She loved being a mouse because of the acting involved and loved being an angel of the beautiful and challenging choreography.

Nika Lysyj

Nika has been dancing ballet since she was three years old for about 12 years. For seven of those years, she danced at Steps on Broadway in New York. When she moved to Concord, she started attending Acton School of Ballet and became a part of the Commonwealth Ballet Company. This is her first year in the company as dancers usually join in their sophomore year. Nika performed as a snowflake, a flower in the Waltz of the Flowers, a party teen in the beginning party scene, and in the second act, she was one of the Spanish leads and one of the Chinese leads. 

Evelyn Mudge

Evelyn began dancing ballet at the Brookline Ballet School when she was only eighteen months old. In first grade, she moved on to the Acton School of Ballet where she has been a part of the community ever since. She isn’t a part of the Commonwealth Ballet Company yet but she hopes to join in future years. She says, “Performing in The Nutcracker is simply a rite of passage for most dancers, and it’s so incredibly special to be able to be a part of it every year.” Due to the pandemic and a subsequent stress fracture, she was away from the stage for some time. She returned last year to perform in The Nutcracker, which she describes as an amazing experience for her and “worth every ounce of difficulty, pain, and practice”. This year, she was cast as an Arabian Corps and performed at every show.

Elle Ricker 

Elle has been pursuing ballet for the past 12 years. She finds the community at Acton School of Ballet and Commonwealth Ballet Company to be incredibly supportive, which is one of the reasons why she loves dancing so much. She cherishes the experience of performing with everyone in small groups as well as in full company pieces. Her most memorable performances include the role of Chorus Frog in Commonwealth Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast in 2018, the role of Spanish Soloist with Livia Capello in Commonwealth Ballet’s The Nutcracker in 2022, and the role of soloist in the contemporary modern piece Raw Velvet by Rebecca Rice earlier this year.

Marina Ricker

Marina has been dancing ballet for 12 years. She explains, “I love [ballet] because it is so difficult; I feel like I can express my deepest self through the physical and mental struggles of ballet. Also, the community is amazing; I’ve developed so many incredible friendships through dance.” On weekends, she rehearsed at the ballet studio from around 12 to 8 pm on both Saturdays and Sundays. Despite the hard work, the energy that came with being part of the magnificent production made it all worth it for her.

Photos Courtesy of Marina Ricker.

Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa

Nahia has been dancing ballet since she was three years old and plans to pursue it professionally. This year, she was cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. After graduation, she plans to join a trainee or second company program to immerse herself in the professional ballet world. During Nutcracker season, she went to the ballet school right after school and often practiced until 9 pm. “It takes a lot of work,” she admits, but “it really all pays off when I get to go onstage!” Her favorite performances are the annual Nutcracker shows, but she’s also excited to perform in The Sleeping Beauty, her favorite ballet, next spring.

Nahia as the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker 2022. Photos Courtesy of Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa.

For The Nutcracker, the ballet dancers started rehearsing in September and received their definite casting at the beginning of October. Christina Drake says “Since most people who audition do so every year (including me), it becomes a sort of tradition and the excitement for the beginning of “Nutcracker Season” is palpable. Rehearsals [began] in earnest in October, and [were] held weekly until tech week.” They learned their parts either independently, in small groups, or together with their director. 

Rehearsals took place every Saturday and Sunday, depending on the role of the dancer. On Saturdays, the dancers were expected to be at the studio from 12:45 PM to around 8:30 PM, and on Sundays, from 12:30 PM to 2:15 PM. Marina Ricker admits “Nutcracker rehearsals can get pretty intense.” Before each show weekend, there is a marathon weekend where the entire ballet is run through on Saturday and Sunday for the whole day. To put it in numbers, Nika Lysyj says that she “spent 15 hours at the studio during the last marathon weekend.” Evelyn Mudge explains, “Our role as ballet dancers is not just to execute the steps neatly with technique and artistry, but to make it look effortless and so incredibly easy–pleasing to the audience. That’s partly why putting on such a large-scale production as The Nutcracker requires hours and hours of rehearsals.” 

Nahia during her Sugar Plum Fairy rehearsal this year. Photo Courtesy of Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa.

What makes ballet special is that while it looks graceful on stage, it requires lots of strength as well. Evelyn Mudge explains, “Not only is ballet an art and outlet for self-expression, but also a physically demanding sport. It’s oftentimes difficult for non-dancers to view ballet and performing as a kind of sport because you can’t truly see all the physical labor and strength that goes into it.”

There are breaks throughout the rehearsals depending on the roles and which rehearsals are happening at which times. Nika says that during these breaks, “we either spend our time in the dressing room or in an empty studio going over choreography or hanging out together.” 

The Rehearsal Schedule. Photo Courtesy of Nika Lysyj.

The dancers’ hard work and dedication culminated in magical performances that create unforgettable holiday memories for viewers. The moment before going on stage brought a rush of feelings for the dancers. Evelyn Mudge admits, “Despite all the time we spend in the studio practicing, a dancer will never not feel anxious or nervous about going on stage.” However, the nervousness quickly turns into energy and passion for the performance. Evelyn Mudge continues, “Each time being on stage feels different, and it’s always a rush of emotions that is difficult to describe. It’s kind of a mix of adrenaline, nervousness, excitement, and joy.” 

The Nutcracker. Photo Courtesy of Christina Drake and the Commonwealth Ballet Company.

Aside from bringing together viewers and their families, the performances also united the dancers. Marina Ricker states, “The company bonds the most during performances. We share a small dressing room, warm up together on the stage, and support each other for the duration of the show–helping with quick changes, securing headpieces, and taking videos from the wings. I love getting to experience the energy that comes with this production.” Evelyn Mudge says “It’s so special to watch your friends dance on a stage as big as Regis in front of an audience made of people besides our parents and friends. I can’t help but feel so immensely proud of everyone and all the effort they have put into the Nutcracker this year.” Christina Drake reflects, “As tiring as it is, [we] get to spend lots of time off-stage with very close friends [we] have made through dance and it’s always sad when the run is over.”

Performing in The Nutcracker was a full-circle moment that also brought many of the dancers back to their own childhood memories. Evelyn Mudge says, “I grew up watching The Nutcracker, and I’m so pleased to now be dancing the roles I once admired when I was little.” The dancers’ passion for sharing art with the community is a huge motivation for their hard work. To put it simply, Nahia Saenz de Viguera Washa explains, “I love dancing, honestly, because it brings me so much joy. Sharing ballet with the audience while performing is so special. Dancing is by far where I am the happiest.” 

To view additional photos of the performances, please visit https://www.commonwealthballet.org/nutcracker.

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