Kimberly Lewis prides herself in presenting the family-oriented Ahwatukee Foothills Ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ each December at Desert Vista High School, and this year there’s a lot of family happening in the cast.
Eight sets of sisters star in the 2016 production, which takes place Dec. 17 and 18 with three performances.
The girls range from seasoned veterans of the ballet to tiny performers playing several parts.
The Gregg sisters, Bella and Olivia of Ahwatukee, are the veterans. They started in the production 10 years ago as Hershey Mice.
At 16, Olivia Gregg is the elder sister. She played the Sugerplum Fairy in last year’s Nutcracker and her sister, Bella, fills the role this year.
“It’s the first time ever we’ve had sisters in the role back-to-back,” said Lewis proudly. Olivia is a Desert Vista High School junior where she dances in the Senior Elite Company, and also dances on the Elite Dance Team for Dance Studio 111.
She’s an accomplished dancer who has trained in all styles of dance, and most recently was the NRG Dance Project’s Teen National Prodigy.
Her history in the Ahwatukee Nutcracker includes starring as Clara at age 9, the Butterfly Queen at 11, the Sugar Plum Fairy at 12, and the Snow Queen at 14. She said she is happy to return to the production following knee surgery to be this year’s Marzipan Queen.
Bella, 14, is a Desert Vista freshman who dances with the high school’s Senior Company, while also dancing competitively with the Dance Studio 111 Elite Dance Team for the third year.
She was only 3 when she first took the stage with the Ahwatukee Foothills Nutcracker company. At 10, she won the coveted role of Clara, and last year danced the role of the Butterfly Queen.
An accomplished dancer, she trains 25 to 30 hours weekly in a variety of dance styles.
Sara and Lilly Allen are two more sisters in this year’s production.
Sara, 11, plays Clara this year, an honor her mother Kristie Allen said was a moment to remember.
“This is like her dream come true, it means everything to her,” she said.
So excited is the family for Sara, a straight A, sixth-grade student at Altadena Middle School, that Kristie and David Allen organized a “Clara Party” for the cast last Sunday prior to the company’s preview performance at the Arizona Grand Resort.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re just embracing everything there is to embrace about it,” said the proud mom, adding that the aspiring professional ballerina hopes to attend Julliard after high school.
Her sister Lily, 8, is a Cerritos Elementary third grader dancing in her second Nutcracker, this year as a March Girl.
Other sisters appearing onstage theatre are Madi and Ally Nash, playing the Snow Queen and Spanish Queen, respectively; Sydney and Megan Schmidt as the Arabian Queen and Lead Toy Soldier; Abby and Emma Kozel as the Mouse King and The Nutcracker;
Also, Annabelle and Calyssa Kobus are in multiple roles with Annabelle, 7, playing an Angel, Baby Hersey Mouse and BonBon, and Calyssa, 3, as a Baby Hersey Mouse and China Baby Doll. This is the toddler’s second Nutcracker season.
Sisters Elianna and Mia Kelso are among the younger cast members at age 5 and 4, respectively. They also take on multiple roles.
Director Kimberly Lewis, who tirelessly tends to all the details for this annual production, also has family involved.
"The Magic of our Nutcracker is truly a family affair,” Lewis said. “Not only do we have sisters performing together, but we also have sisters and brothers, fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, grandfather and granddaughter, uncle and niece on stage together.
“I also love knowing how many of our cast members have family flying in from all over the country to see their loved ones in the Nutcracker,” she added. “The Magic of the Nutcracker brings families together which is what the holiday season is all about—family."
Her brother Kurt Boer has danced the role of Herr Drosselmeyer for 17 years. Her father, Walt Broer travels from his Lincoln, Nebraska, home to play perhaps the type-cast part of the grandfather.
Lewis’ daughter Avery is this year’s Butterfly Queen and Snow Princess while also picking up the role of maid in the party scene. She will also dance a little role with The Grandfather - her grandfather.
In addition, Madison Broer, Kurt’s daughter, plays a party guest who dances with Herr Drosselmeyer, while Lewis’ nephews Ethan and Evan Broer are helping backstage.
Tickets range from $18 to $40 and are available at Dance Studio 111, 4910 Chandler Blvd., Ahwatukee, or by phone at 480-706-6040. If there are tickets remaining, they will be available at the box office an hour prior to each show. Traditionally, the 2 p.m. matinee sells in advance.