When the Executive Director of the Wilmington Ballet Company joined us in the studio, I expected to talk about Sugarplum fairies, the Waltz of the Snowflakes, and all the common Nutcracker delights. Instead, the conversation with Elizabeth Hester quickly turned to diversity. Hester feels it is the responsibility of the arts community to to address and heal social divisions--even through a century old Russian ballet like the Nutcracker. How? Partly through casting. In Wilmington Ballet's Great Wilmington Nutcracker, the dancer playing Clara is African-American and her stage family is biracial.
Elizabeth's mother, Brenda Harris, is 72 years old and clearly from a different generation. She grew up in a small southern tobacco town, a world that had far fewer possibilities regarding diversity than we have now. She is playing Clara's Grandmother in the ballet. At the start of rehearsal, a biracial family situation was very outside her experience, and she is frank about her feelings and adjustment to this. Listen to Elizabeth and Brenda talk about these tough topics above.
Also in the studio was Ana Johnson. Ana is a teenage African-American dancer in the Nutcracker, and her father is playing the part of the Grandfather opposite Brenda Harris. Listen to Ana's perspective in this Web Extra:
Wilmington Ballet's Great Wilmington Nutcracker is onstage at CFCC's Wilson Center on Saturday, 12/17 at 6:00pm & Sunday, 12/18 at 3:00pm.