When Oregon’s Eugene Ballet took the stage at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage last weekend to perform “The Nutcracker,” they were joined by more than 100 local dancers from Southcentral Alaska. Among them was a ballet dancer from the Kenai Peninsula, Sara DeVolld.
DeVolld told the Clarion on Tuesday that she’s been watching “The Nutcracker” in Anchorage since she was an infant.
“Every year, my desire to be part of something so beautiful and magical grew stronger,” she said.
The local dancers were coordinated by Anchorage-based dance studio Alaska Dance Theatre. DeVolld said early this year she was encouraged to audition, but there were several logistical hurdles to overcome. If she were part of the show, she would have to regularly travel from Soldotna to Anchorage for rehearsals.
“We decided we could make it work,” DeVolld said.
So she found herself in a new studio, where she didn’t know anyone. Fortunately, she said that auditions were smooth and staff were welcoming. Eugene Ballet Artistic Director and Choreographer Toni Pimple taught “a few combinations,” then watched the dancers perform them.
The hardest part, DeVolld said, was waiting for the cast list to be announced.
She was cast in the Snow Corps and the Waltz of the Flowers Corps de Ballet. Information about the local dancers included in the show program from Alaska Dance Theatre Artistic Director Farah Zoetmulder says that those roles are “more advanced.”
Being a part of those groups meant taking on “more challenging routines with rigorous choreography,” DeVolld said. It also meant that she got to spend time dancing and learning onstage with the professional dancers from Eugene.
Rehearsals started in September. DeVolld said there was a lot of choreography to learn in a short time.
“Some of the rehearsals were in the early afternoon, so after those rehearsals, we would fill the car back up with gas, get a snack, and drive the three hours back home,” she said.
For evening rehearsals, DeVolld would stay overnight and return home the next day. As the show approached, coincidentally as winter weather began to impact the commute, DeVolld and her mother found a short-term rental and stayed in Anchorage. Ultimately she spent 13 nights in Anchorage and missed spending Thanksgiving at home with friends and family.
In rehearsals and in classes with the Eugene Ballet dancers, DeVolld said she learned that the professionals are more willing to try new things and “explore their abilities.” She seized the opportunity to “soak” up diverse new choreography from different teachers who were “very generous” with guidance about technique and questions about their careers.
That time spent learning from the Eugene Ballet dancers — “learning and dancing with a large group of professionals who share the same passion and love for ballet as I do” — was “one of the most exciting parts of this experience,” DeVolld said.
“They aren’t afraid to experiment with fresh ideas, take risks, and really push themselves to grow.”
DeVolld was afforded the opportunity to further share that love and passion when she was selected as a “Lobby Ballerina.” During the show’s 20-minute intermission, DeVolld was among a group of performers who interacted with the audience — posing for photos, showing off steps, and letting children admire her costume and pointe shoes.
“Sometimes all it takes to ignite a life-long passion for the arts is a few moments, an encouraging smile, and a sparkly crown,” DeVolld said. “My goal is to always be a Ballet Ambassador, helping others discover that ballet is for everyone!”