Students create spectacular "Nutcracker" work through collaborative arts

Collaboration with artists from many disciplines sets the UNCSA School of Dance apart. And nowhere at University of North Carolina School of the Arts is that collaboration in the spotlight more evident than at the school’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.”

“The Nutcracker” involves hundreds of students from the Schools of Dance, Design & Production and Music, creating a collaborative arts atmosphere across campus in studios, backstage and even in dorm rooms. 

For dancers, this collaborative arts setting is truly a singular way to learn their craft.

“That’s part of the magic of this school,” says Jared Redick, Assistant Dean of Ballet and “The Nutcracker” director. “These are student-led productions at a professional level. Students are doing all of the work. That is what’s so unique about UNCSA. To live in that creativity all of the time is a powerful opportunity for students to view their own artform through a different lens.” 

These are student-led productions at a professional level. Students are doing all of the work. That is what’s so unique about UNCSA. To live in that creativity all of the time is a powerful opportunity for students to view their own artform through a different lens.

Jared Redick

Erik Kim and Jacque Hodek, high school seniors who have danced in multiple productions of “The Nutcracker,” and Luke Woods, a college senior and stage manager of the production, have all learned from their work on the show over the last few years. 

Here are a few ways working on the ultimate collaborative arts project has shaped their experience as artists:

Collaboration gives you an appreciation for other arts 

“It is so special that the same people I work with are the ones I see in the academic hall or in my dorm,” Kim says. His roommate is fourth chair horn in this year’s “Nutcracker” and he sees Woods often during rehearsals, taking notes, planning and making schedules.

“I felt a sort of kinship with him, as we both were developing students, working together as if we were professionals,” he adds. “In all of these experiences, I have learned that ‘Nutcracker’ is not just about the dancing.”

Woods and the Stage Management team attend all rehearsals. “We are always with the dancers, working to enable them to hone their art,” he says. “I have learned how to look out for dancers and how to communicate with them to express my needs and help them with theirs. I’ve found a new appreciation of the hard work and perseverance it takes to create their beauty and grace onstage.”

Working together prepares you for the professional world 

For Woods, the show has challenged him professionally and personally—and taken him in unexpected directions. “The collaboration with the School of Dance completely revolutionized my path at UNCSA,” he says. “I began my time here never having worked on a dance production, and now it’s one of my career goals.”

“Working with everyone is always so fun to me. ‘Nutcracker’ is basically one big collaboration that we all come together to do,” says Hodek. “It’s taught me how the profession works, how the theater works and how to work with each other.”

View this post on Instagram

Stage Right is NUTZ #thenutcracker #wecreatehere @uncsa

A post shared by Kendall Myers (@kendall_aimee) on

View this post on Instagram

come see @uncsa nutcracker this weekend!! ❄️

A post shared by abbey mcwhirter (@abbeymcwhirter) on

Collaborative arts projects build lasting connections

Because of the amount of time spent together in rehearsals, Woods says he has formed close friendships with dance students. “Over summer internships, I have had dancers come visit and see shows. During last year’s portfolio review for Design & Production, dancers that I worked with came to support and to learn what our world is about.”

And, Hodek says, it’s important to go outside of your comfort zone. “Being involved in collaborations has helped me personally expand my horizons. I’ve been told since day one that you should make friends outside of your major because there’s so much more out there than what you do all day.”

“There are so many other talented people here,” she says, “and I think when you find someone to collaborate with, the art you make will be extraordinary. Every time you collaborate you’re also networking, which will help you in the future. Being able to work with such talented people is truly an honor, and I really enjoy it.” 

Collaboration is not limited to a rehearsal studio or the stage 

At UNCSA, collaboration happens everywhere—studios, academic classrooms, dorms, the dining hall. Hodek has worked on many collaborative arts projects: “In an academic class I helped write lyrics to a song my classmate was working on, I’ve been asked to be a tutu model, I’ve danced in someone’s film and I’m currently working on a costuming project with a couple of my costuming friends!” 

“The people I see in the pit, craning over the sheet music during a performance are the same ones I see around campus and in my academic classes,” Kim says, from working with a violist on a project for civics class to deep discussions with a drama student on “the entire world of music” in his dorm room. “People have such different lives and outlooks, yet still share such similar experiences with me.”

Experience collaborative arts in action.


December 11, 2018