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Dameon Nagel is Ballet Master, Soloist Dancer and Founding Member of Carolina Ballet.
As Ballet Master, I coach our dancers on the upcoming ballets we will perform — teaching them the steps, spacing, music and getting them ready for the stage. I’ve been with Carolina Ballet from the beginning, and have played a myriad of roles in our different premieres. But nothing makes me as excited for the holidays as when we perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
For me, “The Nutcracker” is THE official start of the holiday season — an annual must-see tradition for adults and kids of all ages. Carolina Ballet began performing “The Nutcracker” fifteen years ago. Besides handling the staging, I have been honored to play the role of Drosselmeyer, who is Clara’s godfather and gives her a nutcracker, starting the young girl on her magical journey with the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Rat King.
I can best describe Drosselmeyer as everyone’s kooky uncle that is just a bit off. A fun, mysterious character, he appears in the party scene and entertains with a series of magical illusions that add a great modern twist to this century old classic. When Artist Director Ricky Weiss first introduced magic to our production back in 2011, I traveled to Las Vegas to learn magic from one of the most legit masters of illusion today: Rick Thomas. The “top secret” methods and props we use are unrivaled — no other ballet company in the U.S. or around the world incorporates Vegas-style illusions into their productions, and it really makes our first act come to life in a compelling, exciting way.
The original Russian tale depicts Drosselymeyer as a magical toy maker, so the addition of his sleight of hand imagery fits and really enhances the story line. Audiences continually marvel, “How did he do that?” A couple of examples are when Drosselmeyer “crushes” a nephew down flat to fit in his bag (and then pops him back to normal size when arriving at the party), and how he makes the empty music box seemingly come to life with a ballerina inside. And more we won’t yet reveal.
Carolina Ballet’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” has something for everyone — the right amount of mystique to let the viewer’s mind and imagination wander.
Carolina Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
When: December 5 to 27 at Chapel Hill’s Memorial Hall, the Durham Performing Arts Center and Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Times and tickets: carolinaballet.com or 919-719-0900