Two UMKC dancers take the stage with KC Ballet

The Nutcracker Ballet has been charming audiences since 1972, and has become a holiday favorite in Kansas City. This year, two UMKC dancers are set to take the stage.

UMKC junior Ava Wichser and senior Jennifer Scholl took part in Nutcracker auditions at UMKC in October, and were ultimately selected to be a part of the show.

But this isn’t their first time performing in “The Nutcracker”.

Wichser is a seasoned Nutcracker dancer with 15 years of experience under her belt.

“I had been dancing in The Nutcracker at my home studio in Stillwater, Minnesota since I was three,” said Wichser.

Wichser has assumed almost every role in the production over those 15 years, with some of her favorites being Clara, Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen.

But Wichser isn’t the only one with Nutcracker experience. Scholl also has years of experience performing in the production.

Scholl got involved when she was a student at the Kansas City Ballet.

“I was in Kansas City Ballet’s previous versions by Todd Bolender as a Mouse one year, and a Trepak for two years,” said Scholl.

Both Scholl and Wichser are dedicated to pursuing dance careers past their college years.

For Wichser, there was no question that dance was the direction she wanted to take.

“When I was deciding what I wanted to do in college I knew I never wanted to stop dancing,” said Wichser. “I knew I always wanted a college degree, and I knew I always wanted to dance so having a dance major was the perfect fit for me.”

Ava Wichser

That decision wasn’t as immediate for Scholl, who had every intention of taking a more academic route.

“It [dance] was more of a second choice,” said Scholl. “As senior year progressed I got burnt out on academia and decided to pursue dance.”

Scholl discovered that dance was the one thing that never caused her to feel burnt out, and motivated her to be better.

“What keeps me moving forward is the constant desire to be better than the day before,” said Scholl. “A goal that is different for everyone, but each step closer to being my best is the greatest feeling.”

Wichser also shares that love for growth and improvement. She believes that in dance, there’s always something to reach for — always room to push for more and give more.

“I love the fact that you can always do better and be better, that’s what keeps me going and that’s why I love dance,” said Wichser.

Their dedication to dance isn’t always easy, though. Dance rehearsals alone are a full-time job.

Rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” started in October and ranged from 2-4 hours a day, everyday.

“In the last weeks of October and into November I have had rehearsals every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Wichner. “Once we get closer to opening night we are rehearsing up to 7 hours a day.”

This strenuous schedule can prove challenging for Wichser and Scholl, both full-time students at UMKC, but they believe as soon as the audience sees the show it will all be worth it.

“The dancers, costumes and sets take audience members on a journey to a different world,” said Wichser.

For Scholl and Wichser, the hard work and long hours are ultimately a gift.

“I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity, and the more time I spend experiencing the company life, the more it makes me realize this is what I am meant to be doing,” said Scholl.

Scholl will dance as a Flower in the ballet and Wichser will dance as Snow and a Flower.

“The Nutcracker” runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 23 at The Kauffman Center.

 

mjennings@mail.umkc.edu

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