Sixth-grader Joshua McLaurin’s wish of becoming a magician came true when he was cast as the magician Drosselmeyer in the Arts Academy at Bella Vista’s annual production of The Nutcracker.
This will be the 10th year the arts academy has brought the full ballet to the stage with a full student cast, except for the role of Mother Ginger, who is elected by the students each year.
The ballet includes kindergarten, first-, fourth- and sixth-graders who auditioned in September and began two-hour-a-week practices in October. This week, the cast of students and a host of teachers took over Marshall Auditorium for full runthrough.
Fourth-grade teacher Chris Harrell said the production has grown during the 10 years.
Five years ago, 150 students were involved. Now there are 220. Sets have been rebuilt to fit the bigger stage at Marshall.
“This is great hands-on experience for the students,” Harrell said. “To be able to get out there on the stage and stand in neutral and perform is the same as a performance on a test for me. That’s the kind of preparation is necessary for the real world.”
Teacher Viola Cano said the performance helps the students meet speech, dance and performance competencies.
Between rehearsals of their scenes, the students sit in the seats meant for the audience and work on their school assignments.
“We’re still teaching throughout all of this,” Harrell said.
Cano said making the students responsible for both their work and the play is preparing them for life.
“I have kids and a job, you know, people I have to take care of and all the other things I want to do. It’s a balance. They’re learning to balance multiple responsibilities at a very young age,” Cano said.
Cano’s four children went through the arts academy and performed in the show and she said gave them confidence.
“I don’t worry about them in any situation from being on stage,” she said.
The performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Marshall Auditorium. Cano said the school is hoping to schedule the performance for the Friday before Thanksgiving each year.
“This is a gift that we can give the community,” Cano said. “It makes kids bigger than life to know that the community is supporting and looking for us.”
Cano said the school focuses on arts-integrated curriculum and the student body learns the difference between drama and theater.
“Drama is for the classroom, not the stage, and theater is for the stage,” she said.
Students have also learned technical dance terms so practices run smoothly, Cano said, when she can instruct them on what moves to do without having to demonstrate it.
McLaurin has been in the ballet since first grade.
“I like how it looks like a dream but it’s really not,” he said. “It makes you think about what happened in the places we go to.”
Fourth-grader Trystan Hennessy is performing in the ballet for the fourth year. This year, she’s playing the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy and a rat.
“Some parts are challenging: learning new moves,” she said. “But I like it; it’s fun.”
Hennessy takes dance lessons.
“I like how we get together and play different roles,” she said.
Tickets are $5 and are available at the school or at the door of the performance, pending availability.
What: Arts Academy at Bella Vista performs “The Nutcracker”
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Marshall Auditorium