When Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) student Katelynn Brock auditioned for “The Nutcracker,” she would have been happy with any role, according to an EMCC news release. But she didn’t land just any role. She was cast as the Ballerina Doll.
“I was not expecting to get the Ballerina Doll because I know how prestigious that role is,” Ms. Brock stated. “I was expecting to be happy with any part I got if they would just allow me to perform because I know ‘The Nutcracker’ is prestigious. Landing a role is hard. But I found out I got the Ballerina Doll, I was astounded.”
The 18-year-old freshman who’s been dancing since she was 5 came across the audition announcement while browsing through EMCC’s online calendar looking for service-learning activities.
“I was looking on the calendar, just curious about the service-learning activities, and I happened to see ‘Nutcracker Audition,’ so I clicked on the day and followed the link and it was through Southwest Ballet Theatre, which is like five minutes away from here,” she stated. “I thought, ‘I might just audition for that just because I have time.’ I’ve been to multiple ‘Nutcracker’ performances, but this will be my first time performing in it so I’m really excited.”
The Nutcracker is being performed this month on the main stage at EMCC’s Performing Arts Center, 3000 N. Dysart Road, Avondale.
The fifth annual performance is made possible through a partnership between EMCC and Southwest Ballet Theatre (SWBT). The partnership gives SWBT a stage to perform on while waiving the facility fees. In turn, EMCC gets a portion of the ticket sales, its students get to attend every SWBT show free of charge, and student workers get hands-on experience.
“Southwest Ballet handles the artistic side and we handle the technical side of the production,” EMCC Coordinator of Fine Arts Facilities Tim Butterfield stated. “They handle their own costumes, but we do the lighting, sound, obviously the facilities, and we provide the run crew. It usually takes about six people backstage to run the ‘Nutcracker’. They’re all my student workers.”
EMCC students who get cast in SWBT shows also get the chance to perform alongside professionals.
“I really like the idea of performing with professional dancers because it not only improves my technique, but it also gives me something to look up to,” Ms. Brock stated.
The show will once again be stage-managed by the very first graduate of EMCC’s theater program. Antonio Hernandez, who took a job last May in entertainment costuming at Disneyworld in Orlando, recently returned after Mr. Butterfield offered him a full-time job.
“The real reason I brought him back was just so I wouldn’t have to stage-manage the show this year,” Mr. Butterfield said with a laugh. “But seriously, it’s nice because there’s a lot of consistency not just for us but for the performers. They know Antonio, they listen to him, they know what to expect from him.”
Aside from the very first “Nutcracker” performance, which Mr. Butterfield stage-managed, Mr. Hernandez has stage-managed every SWBT show at EMCC.
“I’m excited to be back,” Mr. Hernandez said. “This is exactly what I want to be doing.”
For the third year in a row, SWBT hosted a charity night. Members from New Life Center, Sunshine Residential Homes, The West Valley chapter of the TEARS Foundation, Girl Scouts Beyond Bars social impact program, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Homeless Youth Connection will receive tickets to the opening night performance.
“Southwest Ballet Theatre believes in enriching lives through the art of ballet to all groups, even those who might not have the opportunity,” Southwest Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Melissa Hahne stated. “EMCC and SWBT have one of the most creative working agreements, which just grows richer each performance we produce together. We cannot wait to see what develops throughout the years to come.”