"The Nutcracker" Comes to Diggs-Latham
For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
DECEMBER 19, 2018 – Getting ready for The Nutcracker was both a lot of work and a lot of fun, said the students at Diggs-Latham Elementary.
Fourth-grader Kaleb Hartwig, who played the Nutcracker Prince, said he thoroughly enjoyed the days leading up to the performance.
“You get to do fun things every day – dance and learn new things,” Kaleb said.
As Storyteller, fifth-grader Zaree Fullwood was responsible for providing narration and letting the members of the audience know what would be coming next.
“Learning my cues and trying to figure out everything was really hard,” she said.
But totally worth it, she said. “It makes all the hard work worth it just to see the final project.”
Kaleb and Zaree had lots of company in putting on the production.
Altogether, about 225 Diggs-Latham students participated in the show. Students in the 4th and 5th Grade Dance Honors program played the major roles, and the first- and second-graders played supporting roles and sang.
Plus, the third-graders in Andrew Wright’s bilingual class has helped paint the sets.
At the performance during the school day on Tuesday, the audience was made up of students who weren’t in the production, along with parents, teachers, and such visitors as Superintendent Beverly Emory, school board member Lori Goins Clark, and Instructional Superintendent Rusty Hall.
“Wow!!!” Hall said after the show.
With Amanda Nelson, who teaches dance, and Rick Sigler, who teaches music, serving as co-directors, preparations for the show began back in late September. Amanda Gordon, who teaches art, designed the set. Three high schools – North Forsyth, Reynolds and Reagan – helped by loaning some of the costumes.
This was the second time that Diggs-Latham staged The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker is a challenging production for elementary students, Nelson said, and, since staging it for the first time back in 2012, she has been waiting for just the right group of students to take it on.
This was definitely the right group, she said.
The Nutcracker holds a special place in Nelson’s heart. From the age of 10 to the age of 16, she participated in touring productions of the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker.
The featured roles at Diggs-Latham included Reed Flutes, Chinese Dancers, and Flowers. When it was time for the fourth- and fifth-grade students to come to the dance studio before the show to put on their costumes, some of them took a moment to talk about why they like to dance and what they were enjoying about being in the production.
“I like to dance because we get to dress up in fancy outfits and dance,” said fourth-grader Shiph’rah Wilson.
“I like it because I can finally do something I am good at,” said fourth-grader Lea McDowell. “Also, I really like the outfit.”
Fifth-grader Ileyha Pope was one of the Reed Flutes.
“I like that I can do one of my favorite parts and that I can work with other people,” she said.
One day, she hopes to open a hip-hop dance studio that would focus on teaching little girls.
Fatima Olivo-Bermudez has been dancing as long as she can remember. When her mother puts on a song at home, she automatically starts dancing to it. Fatima said that Mrs. Nelson has taught them how to do one dance move at a time, and, along the way, she has learned that doing that can really calm her down.
“I want to be a dance teacher because that is what I have always wanted to do,” Fatima said.
Wajhid Wisley-Fortune was playing Brother Fritz.
“I like my part,” he said. “I also like the Russian dancers.”
Wajhid made a point to say how much he appreciated what Mrs. Nelson had done.
“She has been an inspiration for me.”
Zaree also talked about how much she appreciated Gordon and Nelson.
“Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Nelson are great teachers,” she said.
It’s been a ton of work, Nelson said. “We all wear so many hats…Sometimes, I’m four people at one time.”
She demonstrated by showing how one group of students might look to see what she is directing them to do with her left arm while another group are looking to see what she is going with her right arm. And then there are those looking at one foot or another.
But it’s been worth it, she said.
Sigler said that this version of The Nutcracker was created with older elementary students in mind, and he was really proud of how his younger students have stepped up.
“They always exceed expectations,” he said. “They will bend over backwards. They really want to produce great art.”
Working with the students at Diggs-Latham has been one the most rewarding experiences of his 22-year career, he said.
Being in the show has expanded the students’ vocabularies, Sigler said. Along the way, they have learned such useful new words as “bon bons.”
It was a big day at Diggs-Latham. While some students were getting ready for the 1 o’clock show, others were shopping for gifts for their parents in a room set up by people from Home Moravian Church. The church supports the school in many ways, and members had brought in all sorts of items for students to pick out as a gift for mom or dad.
They had also filled 100 bags with food for students to take home with them over the holiday break.
After the students in the production moved to the stage, Emory and Hall came up to have their pictures made with students. One of the mice there was second-grader Kayla Gentry.
Kayla had been practicing her part in front of family members and hoped that everyone like the show.
In the moment, she was feeling a little nervous.
“I’m kind of scared,” Kayla said.
Once everyone was seated, Sigler reminded the adults to mute their cell phones and encouraged everyone to show their appreciation by clapping.
And then the Sugar Plums and other dancers and the singers proceeded to wow them.