CAPA Nutcracker Returns to the Stage

Freshmen Claire Birdsey performing as Clara in the CAPA Nutcracker.

The California Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) returned to the Campolindo Performing Arts Center (CPAC) this year for a long-awaited, in-person Nutcracker and Concerto performance. The set of shows comes after a year and a half of online dance classes, as well as a film-version of the show that was created in December 2020.

Dancers and choreographers were ecstatic to be back in the theater performing for sold out audiences. The shows included group dances, as well as individual roles, capturing all of the classic characters of The Nutcracker, of which CAPA has been performing for several decades. In addition to The Nutcracker, the Friday and Saturday night shows included a holiday concerto, showcasing jazz, contemporary, and tap pieces.

Many star CAPA dancers gained very memorable moments from the onstage experience.

Senior Skylar Wolff, who starred as the Sugar Plum Fairy, among other group roles, said being back on stage “felt really surreal. It felt very satisfying to be back on stage especially after 2 years without a normal showcase. It’s amazing to just feel the energy of having a show and just to be backstage with people that you love and care about.”

For many, being back onstage comes with a wave of nostalgia from prior years.

Dance Captain senior Sydney Reed, who performed as the Rose Queen and other group roles, said, “Embracing the thrill of performing again is experiencing the liberation and adrenaline I felt as a young kid running on stage for the first time. This past year has provided me with the opportunity to further my appreciation for the stage, storytelling, and touching the hearts of those around us.”

Sophomore Soleil Porcella, appearing as a cat, mirliton dancer, and a Waltz of the Flowers dancer, expressed her enjoyment and said, “There was a lot of adrenaline and I really missed it. It was super scary at first, but by the last performance, it was amazing. It felt very rewarding.”

The bonds between the dancers are another factor of the exciting performance experience. A large portion of CAPA dancers have been dancing for nearly a decade, so to them, the atmosphere backstage is just as important as it is onstage.

Wolff explained, “Everyone is very supportive of each other. I feel like we’re extra outgoing and energetic because it’s a show and we’re all just hyped up on adrenaline. It just felt super refreshing and awesome to be back with those people and to just be back [performing].”

Freshman Maggie Mandell, who starred as Clara and a dancer in Waltz of the Flowers, said, “I loved having the lights on me and getting to hear the audience. I also really liked the atmosphere backstage, and being able to watch my friends was so fun.”

The presence of a live audience was also an adjustment for some dancers. Having people attend the shows and watch the dancers in real-time was something CAPA members missed out on last year.

Senior Adriana Colon, who performed as the Snow Queen and other group roles, said, “To be back on stage with everybody at CAPA after last year’s performance felt so good. It was totally bizarre [to have a live audience]. It’s weird when you first enter on stage, and you realize that there are people who are paying to see you, and you just feel really special.”

“When there’s a live audience you gain a lot more [excitement] because there’s energy in the room. You get that immediate reaction of the hard work that you’ve put in for the past 6 months working on Nutcracker [pay off]. So having an audience [provides] an immediate reward,” said Reed.

For those who were performing in their last Nutcracker at CAPA, the ending of each show was bittersweet.

Reed’s most memorable moment of the show was her last bow as Rose Queen: “[I was] kind of taking in my last form of goodbye on the stage and then also watching the other girls because I was in Arabian too and I got to watch the Queen’s bow for the last time [when I was offstage].”

“When you’re offstage, it’s so special to be backstage and to see the people that you have danced with for over 12 years. This was my last Nutcracker, so being a queen and having the curtains close on your final performance is something that I will never forget,” said Colon.