James Jordan has been with Kansas City Ballet as Ballet Master since 1991. This will be his 22nd Nutcracker production with KCB. Along with the company dancers, James will be working with over 200 students who have auditioned to be a part of this special production!
Q: About how many students auditioned for The Nutcracker this year?
A: We had about 250 students audition for roles ranging from Angels to Flowers. Twenty of those who auditioned are currently students at the UMKC Conservatory and we take seven of their dancers into our production. All of these students range in age from age seven to 21.
Q: What do you look for when picking the role of Clara?
A: That particular role requires an imagination and an expressive body that will help tell the story to the audience. However, Clara does perform classical steps in both acts and therefore must have a strong ballet technique. It’s tricky because she must be a good dancer but also needs to move like a little girl and not the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Q: Besides Clara, what are the most sought-after roles for students?
A: Any of the girls’ roles in the Party Scene are desired because they get to curl their hair and wear frilly dresses and dance around. The boys all aspire to be The Prince and perform the solo pantomime in Act 2.
Q: Since there are multiple student casts, what are rehearsals like for the students?
A: There are usually three different groups rehearsing at the same time in different studios. Some roles are divided into two groups: Cast A or B and some are divided in threes: Cast 1, 2 or 3. Oftentimes, all the students are on their feet learning the steps but later in the process there will only be one group on the floor as we work out the spacing. They switch groups all the time to provide a rest and also to keep everyone engaged in the process.
Q: What is the interaction like between the students in The Nutcracker and the company dancers during rehearsals?
A: Many of our company dancers grew up in similar situations when they looked up to professional dancers who appeared in their school’s production of The Nutcracker. Now they mentor the little ones and help them to focus and learn their steps and spacing.
Q: What do you think students enjoy most about being involved in The Nutcracker?
A: That’s a tough one to answer. I think they love the challenge of learning the steps at the Bolender Center but adore the excitement of dancing in costumes with the KC Symphony at the Kauffman Center.
Q: Does performing alongside professional dancers in a full-blown performance typically enhance the students’ education?
A: Oh, very much so! They see the professionals preparing in the wings for their entrances and flying through the air as they perform very challenging steps and partnering moves. The students see their classroom steps really used and executed brilliantly and that challenges them to try harder in their classes as they work towards becoming professional dancers. Also, the students see true artistry at work as the company dancers add their imaginations on top of their ballet technique to create truly engaging performances.
Q: What do you hope the students get out of this incredible experience?
A: We all hope that each cast member gains a true sense of personal responsibility as a member of a large team working towards the same goal. At the conclusion of every performance, there is a real sense of accomplishment.