The snow falls on the stage of the Musical Arts Center as the dancers glide gracefully across the stage, shimmering like crystals. In that moment, one is transported to a land of magic, a land of dance, a land brought brilliantly to life by IU Ballet Theater.
Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater will present “The Nutcracker” with different casts at 7:30 p.m. from Dec. 1-3 and 2 p.m. from Dec. 3-4.
“The Nutcracker” is one of the most popular and most performed ballets in the world, telling the story of a young girl — Clara — as she experiences a world of magic and wonder after receiving a nutcracker from her mysterious godfather.
IU junior Maddie Tyler is dancing the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy, the Snow Queen and various corps roles. When cast as the Sugarplum Fairy, Tyler said she saw not only the fun of the role but also the responsibility of honoring an iconic character and the memories returning audiences shared of it.
“You really have to uphold the character,” Tyler said. “There’s so much tradition behind it and it’s really fulfilling to see how role can shape a memory for people.”
The finale of Act One — “Waltz of the Snowflakes”— is something Tyler herself has strong memories of, from a childhood of watching the show to her career as a dancer and being able to share in the beauty of the performance with her fellow dancers.
“It’s just so magical because they have the snow falling down and you’re dancing with the whole corps at the end, so it feels very powerful,” Tyler said.
Kyra Nichols, an IU professor of music, assists in teaching the role of the Sugarplum Fairy to the cast. While the role remains the same, Nichols said she believes the most important part is to not just reflect the character in the performance, but also the unique personality of the ballerina.
“They know the technique and they know the steps,” Nichols said. “Then, they have to make it their own, they have to put their personality into it and that keeps it fresh and fun to watch.”
IU senior Ariana Dickerson is dancing the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy, a Demi Flower and Snow Corps. Having danced in “The Nutcracker” since she was a child, Dickerson recalled looking up to the classic role of the Sugarplum Fairy.
“As a kid, I would always see the Sugarplum Fairy and it seemed unreachable in my head,” Dickerson said. “And now I’m doing this role and it still seems unreal.”
As a senior, Dickerson said this final “Nutcracker” was a defining moment, allowing her to draw on her past experiences at IUBT and beyond to truly give an amazing performance that reflected who she was and what she has accomplished.
“As you grow, you pick up different little things you can use to become the role,” Dickerson said. “And you put them together to help structure something even more magical.”