UNCSA’s “The Nutcracker” to feature principal dancers from the New York City Ballet

UNCSA's beloved holiday production of “The Nutcracker” will showcase acclaimed principals from the New York City Ballet – Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen – as guest dancers this year.

Mearns will become the Sugar Plum Fairy and Janzen the Cavalier Prince for two performances only: 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18 and Thursday, Dec. 19. Tickets are available at the Stevens Center box office, by phone at (336) 721-1945, or online.

Sara Mearns will be guest dancer for "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 18 and 19.

Sara Mearn will dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy on Dec. 18 and 19. / Photo: Paul Kolnik

Hailed as “one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the world” by The New York Times, Mearns has danced with the New York City Ballet her entire professional career. Following her training at the School of American Ballet – the official school of the City Ballet – she became an apprentice in 2003, joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in 2004, was promoted to soloist in 2006 and became a principal dancer in 2008.

Janzen has been a principal with New York City Ballet since February 2017. He joined the NYCB as a member of the corps de ballet in 2008, and was promoted to soloist in  2014. New York Times dance critic Alastair McCauley placed Janzen on his list of the top male dance performances in 2014, noting the dancer offered the “best-ever account of a Balanchine role older than he is” in “Robert Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze.”

Russell Janzen will be guest dancer for "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 18 and 19

Russell Janzen will dance the role of Cavalier Prince in "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 18 and 19. / Photo: Paul Kolnik

New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas noted of their recent performance together for NYCB, "The way they dance with and not at each other -- especially in Balanchine's 'Diamonds' -- creates the sort of luster that makes you forget about steps."

With their appearances at the Stevens Center, Mearns and Janzen join a long list of prominent School of Dance guest artists, including alumna Megan LeCrone, a soloist with NYCB; American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Gillian Murphy (an alumna), Misty Copeland, Stella Abrera, Isabella Boyslton and James Whiteside; dance historians Elizabeth Kendall and Elizabeth Kaye; and Dane Shitagi, photographer and creator of the Ballerina Project.

“Welcoming two of the nation’s most accomplished ballet dancers to perform alongside our immeasurably talented students embodies how UNCSA is powering creativity in our community and on our campus,” said Dean of Dance Susan Jaffe. “I have admired the artistry and power of Sarah Mearns and Russell Janzen throughout their distinguished careers, and I can assure our audiences that their highly anticipated performances in ‘The Nutcracker’ will be captivating and memorable.”

The way they dance with and not at each other - especially in Balanchine's 'Diamonds' - creates the sort of luster that makes you forget about steps.

Gia Kourlas, New York Times

“The Nutcracker” will be performed at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem for 10 performances. Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, presented by the UNCSA schools of Dance, Design and Production, and Music. This year’s calendar includes new options for family scheduling on Saturday, Dec. 14, with performances at noon and 5:30 p.m. Additional performances are at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15, and on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22; and at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 18-21.

UNCSA’s heralded ballet has received rave reviews from critics and enthusiastic audiences alike since the reimagined production debuted in 2009 under the direction of Ethan Stiefel, former Dean of the UNCSA School of Dance and former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.

Assistant Dean of Ballet Jared Redick will direct “The Nutcracker” with original staging and direction by Stiefel. Celebrated guest conductor Karin Hendrickson will lead the UNCSA Nutcracker Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s music.

About Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns will be guest dancer for "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 18 and 19

Sara Mearns has been hailed as "one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the world." / Photo: Erin Baiano

Sara Mearns, originally from Columbia, S.C., has been dancing since the age of three. She entered the School of American Ballet in the fall of 2001 and became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in the fall of 2003. She joined the corps de ballet in 2004, was promoted to soloist in 2006, and to principal dancer in 2008. Mearns is known for her roles as the Swan Queen in “Swan Lake” and for Balanchine ballets including “Jewels” (Diamonds) and “Symphony in C,” among countless others. She has originated roles in ballets by choreographers including Justin Peck, Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, to name a few, and has appeared as a guest artist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company with Dances of Isadora (Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation), the Martha Graham Company (2019 Gala in Etkasis), The Ashley Bouder Project (“Duet” by Liz Gerring) and Company Wang Ramirez (“No. 1”). Mearns appeared in “New Bodies,” a collaboration with Jodi Melnick performed at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. At New York City Center, she has appeared in the Fall for Dance Festival (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019), where she most recently performed a new duet choregraphed by Kim Brandstrup.  She was a guest artist alternating the role of Victoria Page in the U.S. premiere of Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes.” She recently collaborated with Pam Tanowitz Dance in “Time forever dividing itself towards innumerable futures,” a world premiere performed outside at the 2019 River to River Festival in New York.

Mearns is a Benois de la Danse and Princess Grace Award nominee and winner of the 2018 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performer. She made her musical theatre debut as the Angel in New York City Center Encores! “I Married an Angel” in March 2019, directed and choreographed by Josh Bergasse.  In April, she performed in the Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event in New York City, celebrating what would have been Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. This summer she danced at Jacob’s Pillow in a week-long tribute to her called Beyond Ballet.  This past spring, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of South Carolina.

About Russell Janzen

Russell Janzen will be a guest dancer for "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 18 and 19

Russell Janzen was named one of the New York Times best make dance performers in 2014. / Photo: Paul Kolnik

Mr. Janzen was born in Bridgeport, Conn., and began his dance training at the age of six at The Rock School in Philadelphia, Pa. He attended summer sessions in 2004 and 2005 at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, and enrolled as a full-time student in the winter of 2005. In Oct. 2007, Mr. Janzen became an apprentice with NYCB, and in June 2008, he joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet. He was promoted to soloist in Oct. 2014 and to principal in Feb. 2017.

Janzen is a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Clive Barnes Award,  named for a longtime dance and theater critic for the New York Times and writer for Dance Magazine.

For New York City Ballet, he has performed featured roles in many works by George Balanchine, including Cavalier in “The Nutcracker,” Diamonds from “Jewels,” and roles in “Concerto Barocco,” “Swan Lake” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He also has performed featured roles in choreography by Maurio Bigonzetti, August Bournonville, Jorma Elo, Peter Martins, Benjamin Milliepied, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon.

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October 22, 2019

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