Check it out
What: “The Nutcracker Ballet”
Where: Veterans’ Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St.
When: 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $15 general, available one hour before show time
By Shari Walter
Looking to extend your family time after Thanksgiving? Look no further than Davis’ annual “Nutcracker Ballet.” The 23-year-old tradition presented by dance teacher Hanneke Lohse, her students and the Davis Art Center opens at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Veterans’ Memorial Center.
“There is magic here,” said Olivia Stroud, a 10th-grader at Davis High School, one of three ballerinas performing as Clara this year. “The wonderful thing about ‘The Nutcracker’ is there is something for everyone. Whether you have danced yourself or not, no matter your age, there is magic.”
UC Davis senior Kaitlin Coppinger, who has performed numerous roles in “The Nutcracker” over the past 12 years, added: “ ‘The Nutcracker’ is the epitome of tradition and family. For me, ‘Nutcracker’ has a dual sense of family and tradition. I was lucky enough to have my dad play Uncle Drosselmeyer my first five years as Clara.
“The end of the ballet is extremely tiring and challenging,” Coppinger continued. “The leads have almost no time to rest, and seeing my dad smiling at me, having him lift me high over his head, and kissing my forehead as he left me with the nutcracker just before my final pose on stage, was magical.”
“Magic,” “tradition” and “family” are the main words Lohse and her dancers repeat as they describe the ballet company and its “Nutcracker” production.
“The introduction to the holidays is very important,” Lohse said. “ ‘The Nutcracker Ballet’ and all our performances are actually family affairs, full of warmth. It takes everyone to make this work. To me, ‘The Nutcracker’ is very special, and over all these years I have seen all these children who dance, blossom.”
Lohse, who has taught ballet in Davis for almost 45 years, considers her students her own kids. One of her five daughters did dance in her ballet company, as Clara, and this year is special for Lohse as her 5-year-old granddaughter is dancing as a party girl.
DHS graduate Kris Kazaks, who shares the role as the Nutcracker Prince, lives and works in San Francisco.
“The main reason I commute from San Francisco to Davis every weekend for at least two months to rehearse for these performances is the sense of community in Hanneke’s ballet company,” he said. “It’s so great to see all generations — from newborns to grandparents — all in the studio working hard to make art. It is also inspiring to work with such talented and dedicated kids.”
Ania Mieszkowska, who plays Drosselmeyer in the matinees and a snowflake and a flower in the evening casts, shares the stage with her 13-year-old son, Alexander, who is dancing the role of the Rat King.
“We have performed together before and there is something very special about sharing a passion like this,” she said.