AJ Grutsch | Podcast Editor
As Christmas inches closer and closer some of our WHS students decide not to spend their free time doing the normal Christmas hullabaloo but perfecting their ballet movements for their production of The Nutcracker.
Celia Emmert and Eliza Barton have spent the last 13 Christmas seasons reciting the Nutcracker ballet. With practices taking place for over five hours at a time, these girls have learned all the aspects of their performance down to a science.
Celia and Eliza have put in the work and will soon reap the reward on their big night.
The following story is from an interview with Emmert and Barton on the latest Senioritis podcast. Listen to the full conversation here.
Tell me about your production of The Nutcracker.
Celia: I go to ballet Midwest, which is in Topeka. This is my final year doing it because I’m a senior and then I go off to college. We’ve done over 45 Productions. My grandma, in fact, helped make some of the scenery when she was a lot younger. So that’s how I got connected with Ballet Midwest was my grandma. This is my 13th year doing it.
Eliza: I have not lived in Kansas all my life. So I’ve only done The Nutcracker with my current company Kansas Ballet Academy for seven years. In Utah I danced at Valley West and I did the Nutcracker there for five years.
Isn’t ballet super, immensely hard work?
Celia: I go to class three times a week. And as of right now, for my rehearsal schedule. I have Saturday and Sunday for over five hours non-stop. We started in September, and it’s more rigorous since we have nine days until the first performance.
What role do you play in the Nutcracker?
Celia: I have three lead roles this year. So I’m a lead flower, which is a seven minute long dance. And then I am a friend in the party scene and I am lead Spanish.
Eliza: I am Arabian lead. I am also a lead flower and a snowflake.
Have you met any cool new people?
Celia: At my company, we basically get assigned little and big sisters when we get into the company. And it is basically a little family and we all know each other and everything. So it’s really fun to do these productions. I’m not very social. So it has kind of put me more out there because I know no one from Topeka. Well, I know some people, but most of them are from dance.
Eliza: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, I actually danced with my touring company. So we travel all around the US. I mean, I’ve gotten to meet various adjudicators and actually professors of universities like the University of Indiana, so that was kind of cool. And I’ve met a ton of dancers from other companies, and they are seriously so sweet. Like the ballet community is super supportive.
Did you guys plan on doing any stuff in college?
Eliza: I am. Yeah, I would either like to dance collegiately or professionally, I have not quite decided yet. Because I’m just an indecisive person. But we’ll see where that takes me.
Celia: Sadly, this is my last year. I have our recital and spring ballet. Well, I’m working towards a career in veterinary medicine. So eight years of college and science and all of that. It’s what I love.
What other ballets have you guys done before?
Celia: I’ve done Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Donquixote, Swan Lake. And we’re going to do Giselle this spring.
Eliza: My company has also done Donquixote. We’ve done Poquito, Lake Corsair, Rye Monta, Giselle, Nutcracker, Fairy doll, Carnival of the Animals. Peter and the Wolf, which is interesting, and we’ve also done Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
What is your favorite aspect of dancing, and being a ballerina?
Eliza: Probably my favorite part is having to push myself way past my limits to reach the point of what I would consider perfection for a certain role. And I know that sounds like a little extreme, but it’s honestly kind of a thrill. And I know this sounds a little toxic, but I like being able to feel like I’m better than somebody else at something. So I don’t know, that’s probably my favorite part. Besides getting to work towards more interesting skills, and more advanced roles, and of course, potentially working up to that career that I want.
Celia: I have a lot of things that I like about dance. But I think like, besides the connections and everything, my favorite part is kind of pushing my body past what it likes to do. I’m not flexible. I’m a little chunky, for a ballerina considering. But like, I don’t care, because it’s just, it’s so much fun to do that choreography that you love and put the emotion into it. And it is just getting recognition of “Here I am, pay attention to me.” It’s very rewarding.