Students, faculty and staff share magical memories of "The Nutcracker"

From students performing for the first time to faculty who have been advising the production for over a decade, "The Nutcracker" is an iconic moment each December for many at UNCSA. This collaborative production between the Schools of Dance, Design and Production and Music, is not only one of the biggest scholarship fundraisers for the year, but also a beloved time that both the campus and local communities look forward to all year. 

Below, we have gathered some beloved "Nutcracker" memories from students, faculty and staff who are working on the show this year... as well as their predictions and excitement for what is to come in this year's production as it returns to the Stevens Center. 

Magical memories

"I loved seeing the premiere of last year’s filmed version of 'The Nutcracker.' I was awestruck by what we were able to create in the midst of the pandemic and wowed by the ingenuity and capabilities of my classmates across the arts concentrations on campus. It was magical to see this cohesion and the outcome of our countless hours of hard work and dedication. Go Pickles!"
- Karl Pil ’24, Dancer: Mouse, Trepak, Chocolate Man

"I started my career at UNCSA as an usher for 'The Nutcracker' in 1996, where I was stationed in house left. This was conveniently the area from which the dance faculty would take notes on the production. I'd seen it before growing up, but overhearing their comments and suggestions was a fantastic way to learn how to watch and think about dance as the professionals do!"
-  Latonya Wright, Manager of Patron Services

"My favorite memory is opening night during my freshman year! It was my first time performing on the Stevens Center stage and I was so excited to perform the role of Clara. I also enjoyed the unique experience of filming 'The Nutcracker' last year, even through COVID-19!"
- Emma Cilke ’23, Dancer: Snow Queen, Clara and Dew Drop

Emma Cilke in Nutcracker

Emma Cilke (center) performed for the first time as Clara in the 2019 "Nutcracker." / Photo: Peter Mueller

"I remember a few years ago when Maddie Whittman and Brett Coppa danced the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier pas de deux. They had the most electrifying performance I had ever seen, and I was crying in the wings watching their beauty. When they came off stage they knew it had been a great show and just hugged and hugged each other so tightly. Witnessing those kinds of moments is magical."
- Marissa McCullough, Dance Costume Shop Director and Wardrobe Supervisor 


Alumni Maddie Whittman and Brett Coppa speaking with former Dean of Dance Susan Jaffe. / Photo: Marissa McCullough

The evolution of a classic

"I am looking forward to playing with the low brass section this year! Not only do I get to play with great musicians, but I get to sit next to and collaborate with the principal and second trombones, as well as with the principal tuba — all of which are great friends of mine. Connecting with those people on an emotional level and being able to put all of our love into the music is what I look forward to the most. Additonally, we get to perform with the ballet students, a few of which are also good friends, so I am excited for that massive spectacular collaboration of students!"
- Darien Baldwin ’22, Principal Bass Trombone

"The scene in the Pine Forest/Waltz of the Snowflakes section is always so beautiful with the costumes and the movement and the lovely forest in the background. I always feel like the season has really arrived once the "snow" begins to fall onstage. I can't wait to see how the new choreography [from dance faculty Ilya Kozadayev] reimagines my favorite scene. Maybe it'll spark some extra magic for some real snow!"
- Latonya Wright, Manager of Patron Services

Snow scene in Nutcracker

Snowflakes dancing during the 2016 "Nutcracker" production. / Photo: Peter Mueller

"This is my first time performing 'The Nutcracker' at both UNCSA and in my dance training! I am a contemporary dance student, so I am excited to be a part of the production this year and to make new memories with everyone. Also, getting to see what the production side of 'The Nutcracker' is like compared to the audience point of view will be very exciting!"
- Julia Shoffner ’22, Dancer:

Behind the scenes of "The Nutcracker" 2021 rehearsal. / Photo: Kendall BestBehind the scenes of "The Nutcracker" 2021 rehearsal. / Photo: Kendall BestBehind the scenes of "The Nutcracker" 2021 rehearsal. / Photo: Kendall BestBehind the scenes of "The Nutcracker" 2021 rehearsal. / Photo: Kendall BestBehind the scenes of "The Nutcracker" 2021 rehearsal. / Photo: Kendall Best

"This year I’m looking forward to being back onstage with many of my talented peers and I’m also excited to perform in front of a live audience! All of the artists have worked so hard during the past year and it is a wonderful reward for the community’s perseverance."
- Emma Cilke ’23, Dancer: Snow Queen, Clara and Dew Drop

"I am so looking forward to dancing downtown at the Stevens Center for the first time - yay!! It will be fabulous to interact with our community in Winston-Salem, sharing our passion for ballet and the delightful Nutcracker tradition. It’s going to be an absolute blast!"
- Karl Pil ’24, Dancer: Mouse, Trepak, Chocolate Man

"This is my first year playing in 'The Nutcracker,' but I'm looking forward to having a wonderful experience joining all the partcipating departments across the university in this amazing production."
- Clara Ruiz Medina ’23, Principal Clarinet

Nutcracker orchestra

"The Nutcracker" orchestra rehearses before a 2018 performance. / Photo: Raunak Kapoor

"I am most looking forward to Campus Night and seeing everyone’s reactions to all of our work. This will be my first time running backstage props at the Stevens Center, so I’m excited to see the process of everything coming together."
- Mahalet Andargachew ’24, Assistant Properties Director

Mahalet in class

Mahalet Andargachew works on a props project during a fall 2020 class. / Photo: Wayne Reich

"I've worked as an advisor on 'The Nutcracker' every year since I joined the Stage Management faculty in 2007. Each year what I always look forward to most is sitting in the house for Campus Night. The house is always packed and everyone cheers on their friends throughout the performance. I've always likened it to the closest thing we have at UNCSA to a homecoming football game experience. It gets loud and rowdy and it's so much fun!"
- Jamie Call-Blankenship, Stage Management Faculty Adviser


Stage managers calling "The Nutcracker" in 2015. / Photo: Andrew Dye

"I'm most looking forward to seeing how the new props in 'The Nutcracker' get to shine this year, and how cool the show will look with all the changes! We've worked so hard to combine things from the past two years and there will be some exciting new additions that I can't wait for everyone to see."
- Emma “Tommy” Thomas ’23, Properties Director

by Melissa Upton-Julio

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December 01, 2021