Nashville Ballet's Nashville's Nutcracker is one of our city's favorite, time-honored holiday traditions. We decided to have a little fun during this final stretch of the show (it runs through Monday, Dec. 23) by connecting with our favorite Nashville Ballet dancer, Kayla Rowser (pictured above), who is doing double duty this year by performing two paramount Nutcracker roles, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen. We also connected with the four local girls who are sharing the duties of playing Clara.

Kayla Rowser on the Magic of Nashville's Nutcracker

What makes Nashville's Nutcracker so magical?

Nashville’s Nutcracker brings audience members of all ages on a journey away from their everyday lives, including the rushing and hustling during the holiday season, and it offers a piece of holiday, art-filled magic. 

Why do you think seeing this ballet has become such a tradition for many Nashvillians? What helps it maintain its place in Nashville's holiday tradition landscape?

I believe many Nashvillians have made attending Nashville Ballet’s Nashville’s Nutcracker a yearly tradition because it is the perfect gathering for friends, families and neighbors to celebrate the holidays together.

There truly is nothing like seeing a Nutcracker performance to bring extra joy and magic to the holiday season. Attending the Nutcracker as a family can be passed down through the generations as well. Nashville’s Nutcracker is also one of the few times you can find so many children from Nashville Ballet’s Academy and from our community all on stage in a professional production. With so many aspects of our city brought to life in our production, audience members truly feel at home watching the joy, magic and beauty of Nashville's Nutcracker.

How do you make dancing the same ballet, and the same roles, feel fresh and exciting? How is watching Nashville's Nutcracker fresh and exciting for audiences who've seen it before? 

The story of the Nutcracker, and the choreography of the roles are timeless, making them a joy to perform. As for doing them year after year, small choreographic changes freshen up the production, and if you are someone who attends regularly and watches closely, you may catch them yourself!

For professionals, the yearly tradition of the Nutcracker is the often the only ballet that is revisited every single season. This allows us as artists to really see our growth as well as continuing to challenge us to be our absolute best. Every single performance is a brand new audience, and in turn is a wonderful responsibility and opportunity to bring something new to on stage partnerships in roles we may be repeating yearly or dancing with a new pairing for the first time. 


MEET THE CLARAS!

Four local girls, who are students at the School of Nashville Ballet, share the landmark role of Clara in Nashville Ballet's Nashville's Nutcracker. We had fun getting to know them!

CARLY GRAHAM

Age 12
Grade 7

When did you first become interested in dance and what is it about dance that made you
want to become involved with it?

I first started wanting to dance after I saw the Nutcracker for the first time at age 3. I stood up and I told my mom that I wanted to do that. One of my babysitters also taught at a dance studio and thought I would be interested in it, so I started dancing. Dance was just so beautiful and it was a really pretty way to express yourself. It also looked very fun and I was really excited to start.

How long have you been a student with the School of Nashville Ballet, and what, so far, what in your involvement there has taught you the greatest lesson both as dance student and as a human being in general?

This is my sixth year with the School of Nashville Ballet. As a dance student I have learned how to apply my technique to harder things, such as the role of Clara. As a person, I have learned to work hard and never give up. I also learned to be confident in who I am and always put my best foot forward.

Clara is such an iconic, central figure to Nashville's Nutcracker. What was it like for you the
day you were told you get to become her onstage this year?

When I was told that I got Clara I was absolutely ecstatic. I have always wanted to be this part, so it was a dream come true. I was very honored and most of all I was excited to start rehearsing. That whole day I was very happy and could not stop thinking about it!

What's the most challenging and the most rewarding things about playing Clara?

The most challenging thing about playing Clara is making sure that I go over and remember all of the choreography that I learned that day. I always need to know what I am doing for rehearsals. The most rewarding part is being able to put all of the things that I have been working on together with everyone else along side me. I get to string it all together to help tell the story.       

What is your favorite thing about Nashville's Nutcracker overall?

 If I had to pick just one, it would be working with the company. I look up to them so much and I love being able to work with them. It is very exciting for me to get to see them do their part in the story.

What do you hope kids in the audience will experience and take away with them from the show?

I hope that they will want to try out ballet or even just participate in The Nutcracker. It is such a fun experience and I think everyone should at least try it out. In the long run, ballet teaches me so much about dance and how to express myself. I really hope that the performance inspires kids.

For any child in the audience who's watching and has the thought, "I want to do that!" ... what do you want to say to him or her?

I say, do it. For me, it is the most wonderful thing and I am so glad l tried it out. If you want to try it, then go for it because you might fall in love with it like I did. It’s never too early or too late to try.

FUN STUFF ABOUT CARLY:

When you're not in school and not in the dance studio, what activities do you enjoy?

I like to paint, I love singing in my church and school choir, and I love spending time with my family.

What are your three favorite books?

I love the book Untwine. I also enjoy reading Harry Potter and Out of My Mind.

What are your three favorite movies?

I always love Christmas movies! My favorites are It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists/bands?

I enjoy listening to Mandolin Orange, The Avett Brothers and Kacey Musgraves!


EVA PREGONT

Age 15
Grade 9

When did you first become interested in dance and what is it about dance that made you
want to become involved with it?

When I was about 5 years old, I saw dancers from Nashville Ballet perform Ferdinand at the downtown library.  After the show, they asked kids to come up on the stage to learn how to dance like some of the animals, and apparently I was front and center before my mom could even turn around.

How long have you been a student with the School of Nashville Ballet, and what, so far, what in your involvement there has taught you the greatest lesson both as dance student and as a human being in general?

I became a student at Nashville Ballet this past August, although I have attended several summer intensives in the past. I've been learning to not get angry with myself when I am working hard and learning new things.

Clara is such an iconic, central figure to Nashville's Nutcracker. What was it like for you the
day you were told you get to become her onstage this year?

When I found out that I got the role of Clara, I thought I had read the e-mail wrong! I thought it was a joke. I was so surprised!

What's the most challenging and the most rewarding things about playing Clara?

The most rewarding thing about playing Clara is getting to know the other Claras and interacting with the cast. The most challenging thing about playing Clara is conveying the story to the audience without using words.     

What is your favorite thing about Nashville's Nutcracker overall?

My favorite thing about Nashville's Nutcracker overall is being part of such a huge production and spending so much time with so many people who dance at Nashville Ballet.

What do you hope kids in the audience will experience and take away with them from the show?

 I hope kids experience the "magic" of the story! 

For any child in the audience who's watching and has the thought, "I want to do that!" ... what do you want to say to him or her?

I would say, "Audition!  Do your best, and have fun!"

FUN STUFF ABOUT EVA:

When you're not in school and not in the dance studio, what activities do you enjoy?

I enjoy drawing, listening to music, watching cartoons and playing with my two dogs, Rosie & Griffin.

What are your three favorite books?

My three favorite books are Darker Shade of Magic, Mockingjay and Vicious.

What are your three favorite movies?

I love all the Marvel movies.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists/bands?

Twenty-one, Niki Minaj and Pentatonix


TILLY ANDERSON

Age 12
Grade 7

When did you first become interested in dance and what is it about dance that made you
want to become involved with it?

Since I was very little, I have been completely enchanted by the beauty of ballet. The ways that the professionals I saw on stage could move and express themselves so fully inspired me to dream that someday I could do the same.

How long have you been a student with the School of Nashville Ballet, and what, so far, what in your involvement there has taught you the greatest lesson both as dance student and as a human being in general?

I’ve been a student at the School of Nashville Ballet for 9 years. I started when I was 3-and-a-half, and I am now in Level 5 in the Academy. Over these years, I have learned the importance of self-expression, self-discipline and perseverance.

Clara is such an iconic, central figure to Nashville's Nutcracker. What was it like for you the
day you were told you get to become her onstage this year?

My reaction to being cast as Clara was, to put it simply, utter disbelief. But after the news set in a little bit, I was completely excited that I would get the chance to perform such an amazing role.

What's the most challenging and the most rewarding things about playing Clara?

Playing Clara has allowed me to work more closely with the company. I also have an opportunity to implement my technique and acting into my dancing. However, it is quite nerve racking to dance for such a large amount of time in front of both the company members and a very large audience.      

What is your favorite thing about Nashville's Nutcracker overall?

I love the details in the sets and costumes and the wonderful music. Nashville's Nutcracker has really become a fun wintertime tradition. I also love how it has been adapted for Nashville and the joy it brings to the Nashville community.

What do you hope kids in the audience will experience and take away with them from the show?

For the kids in the audience, I hope they will experience the joy, the magic and the beauty of the Nutcracker ballet. I hope they take away with them that even when unfortunate things or sad things occur, like Clara’s beloved Nutcracker breaking, your dreams can turn it into a wonderful and magical adventure. 

For any child in the audience who's watching and has the thought, "I want to do that!" ... what do you want to say to him or her?

I would tell them that the Nutcracker is an amazing performance to be a part of, and if they want to be in it someday, then they will have the time of their life. Because they will get to experience the magic and passion from all the dancers around them first hand.
 

FUN STUFF ABOUT TILLY:

When you're not in school and not in the dance studio, what activities do you enjoy?

Outside of ballet and school, I love to read and write stories, and play the cello.

What are your three favorite books?

It is very hard to choose just three but, I would have to say Harry Potter, Keeper of the Lost Cities and the Edge Chronicles.

What are your three favorite movies?

Leap, The Hobbit and the Harry Potter movies.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists/bands?

The Beatles, Ed Sheeran and Auden.


MARIANA DOMINGUEZ

Age 13
Grade 9

When did you first become interested in dance and what is it about dance that made you
want to become involved with it?

I have loved to dance and perform ever since I can remember. When I began taking ballet classes at the age of 6, I remember loving every moment! Even since then, I was already extremely driven and had a huge heart for the art form. To accomplish the huge honor of becoming a professional ballerina is something I have always dreamed of and hope to achieve one day!

How long have you been a student with the School of Nashville Ballet, and what, so far, what in your involvement there has taught you the greatest lesson both as dance student and as a human being in general?

This is my first year as a Nashville Ballet student. I was also privileged to attend their summer Intensive this past summer. I have learned the importance of technique as well as the importance of artistry here at Nashville Ballet. It is something which you use to express yourself in ballet as well as a human being, with the important balance of beauty and strength. 

Clara is such an iconic, central figure to Nashville's Nutcracker. What was it like for you the
day you were told you get to become her onstage this year?

I was so thrilled and blown away by the fact that they chose me for this year's Nashville Nutcracker! I'm so honored and overjoyed to be able to portray this iconic role on stage along with the Nashville Ballet Company!

What's the most challenging and the most rewarding things about playing Clara?

Since Clara is onstage throughout the whole show, remembering all the positioning and important details is the most challenging part for me. The most rewarding is definitely interacting and working with my fellow Claras and Nashville Ballet Company members. Having this time to work alongside the professional company inspires me every day to continue working hard toward my dream.      

What is your favorite thing about Nashville's Nutcracker overall?

I love how Nashville Ballet's Artistic Director Paul Vasterling has a special focus on showcasing Nashville's rich history, which makes this such a special performance to Nashville.

What do you hope kids in the audience will experience and take away with them from the show?

I hope they experience the joy of adventure and the Christmas spirit through this special production! 

For any child in the audience who's watching and has the thought, "I want to do that!" ... what do you want to say to him or her?

Keep dreaming and working hard, anything is possible! 

FUN STUFF ABOUT MARIANA:

When you're not in school and not in the dance studio, what activities do you enjoy?

I love spending time with my family and friends, and cheering them on in their own activities.

What are your three favorite books?

Live Fearless, The Dream Giver and Life In Motion.

What are your three favorite movies?

Miracles from Heaven, Life Is Beautiful and Trust Fund.

Who are three of your favorite musical artists/bands?

Lauren Daigle, Sleeping At Last and Surfaces.

 

IF YOU GO:

Nashville Ballet presents:
Nashvile's Nutcracker (Thru Dec. 23; All ages)
TPAC's Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 | nashvilleballet.com

Remaining showtimes: Fri 2 p.m., Sat 2 & 7 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m., Mon 2 & 7 p.m.
Tickets: $35 - $93