Local teen featured in 'The Nutcracker'

Marie Havenga • Dec 7, 2017 at 2:00 PM

When Grand Haven High School sophomore Alexandra Hodge saw the Grand Rapids Ballet's performance of “The Nutcracker” nine years ago, desire tiptoed into her dreams.

The then-6-year-old Alexandra said she knew from that moment forward that she wanted to be a ballerina.

Now 15, she is performing in the Grand Rapids Ballet's current production of “The Nutcracker,” which runs through Sunday at DeVos Place. Alexandra plays a drummer in the battle scene between the mice and soldiers in the first act, and a harlequin in the second act.

“We're like little queens running out,” Alexandra said of her second-act role. “We perform for Clara and the Nutcracker, and dance around them. Clara puts her tutu on for us and we clap.”

Alexandra said her favorite move during the show is a sauté, which is a jump in classical ballet.

“I really like doing the opening sauté across the stage as a harlequin,” she said. “It's like you jump up in the air into an arabesque (one leg straight and the other directly behind with a straight knee). It kind of feels like you're flying.”

But that flying sensation comes with a whole lot of flight school. Alexandra and her troupe rehearsed for more than three hours every night for a week before the show opened Dec. 1. Prior to that, she rehearsed at the Grand Rapids Ballet studio on Saturday afternoons, and Thursday and Friday evenings.

Alexandra started taking ballet lessons as a child from the late Nancy Baum in Grand Haven.

“I've liked ballet since I was a kid,” she said. “I would like it to be my career choice, but there's always injury. I had a broken toe earlier this year. I was doing a jump in class and landed wrong.”

Alexandra said “The Nutcracker” is a Christmas tradition in her family.

“All around us, the world is changing and we have all this technology, but we still come back to 'The Nutcracker' because it's part of our society,” she said. “It's part of the holiday tradition.”

Alexandra said the storyline — in which a little girl, Clara Stahlbaum (played by Madeline Muth), receives a handmade soldier/nutcracker from her godfather, Herr Drosselmeier (played by Attila Mosolygo), at a Christmas Eve family party — remains a classic.

“I guess it's what we all dream about,” Alexandra said, “having a prince save us.”

Although Alexandra plays small roles in this production, she said she still wants to make a difference in young dancers' lives and in their dreams, like “The Nutcracker” once did for her.

“I always think when I'm performing that there may be some little kid out there that, when they grow up, they'll want to be a ballerina because of the performance that I put on for them,” she said. “I don't know if words can describe the feeling when I dance, when I'm stressed, or I'll dance when I'm sad. It just makes me feel so much better.”

Grand Haven resident Dr. Alex Dombrowski attended Saturday night’s performance with his wife, Michelle, and their 6-year-old daughter, Scarlett. Dombrowski said it was his first ballet.

“For someone who's never been to a ballet and has never seen 'The Nutcracker,' I enjoyed the show,” he said. “I was very much impressed by the skill level of the performers.”

Michelle Dombrowski said Scarlett has been dancing all over the house ever since the show.

“She was amazed by the whole performance,” Michelle said.

Grand Haven resident Amanda Van Tubergen first saw “The Nutcracker” as a child. For the past two years, she's been taking her own child to the Grand Rapids Ballet version. Van Tubergen and Alena, 7, attended Saturday's matinee performance.

“We came back this year because it just makes you feel like Christmas,” Van Tubergen said. “I remember thinking (as a child), 'This must be what my toys do at night.' I have always loved the idea of toys, dolls and stuffed animals being 'alive' when we're not looking.”

“The Nutcracker” continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices range from $31 to $150 per person.

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