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Adrienne Kerr

Cracking the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy, Snow Queen and Dew Drop for Ballet Idaho's Nutcracker

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As Boise Weekly was hitting the streets this week, Adrienne Kerr was getting the good news from Ballet Idaho: She'll be dancing the roles of the Sugarplum Fairy, Snow Queen and Dew Drop in the company's five performances of The Nutcracker, Dec. 18-20 at the Morrison Center. Kerr, a principal dancer with BI, guessed she has performed in more than a dozen ballet productions of the Tchaikovsky masterpiece.

"When I was 9, I was in my first Nutcracker. I was an angel," she said, adding she has lost count how many roles in the Nutcracker she has danced over the years.

In between rehearsals, BW talked to Kerr about the Christmas classic, her career and the art of making something so difficult to look so effortless.

Do you remember your earliest interest in dance?

Actually, I was watching figure skating in the Olympics. I was probably 3 and said, "That's what I want to do with my life." My mom said, "OK, let's get you some balance with ballet lessons." I think I've been ice skating only four times since then.

Do you remember the first time dancing in front of someone?

I was 5. I remember my costume was a beige tutu, and I had a cute chiffon bow in my hair. The girl in front of me didn't know what she was doing. When she bent down to pick up some sequins on the floor, I shoved her out of the way.

Wait a minute; I'm getting a hint of Black Swan here.

By the time I was 9, it was time for my first Nutcracker.

I'm hoping you didn't push any of those dancers out of the way.

Of course not. I was more disciplined when I was 9.

Have you suffered any physical setbacks in your career?

I had hip surgery at the age of 22.

When did you know something wasn't feeling right?

I danced a whole season with a torn ligament. Ultimately, I had an amazing surgeon from the University of Utah. It was a year and a half from the time I stopped dancing until I performed again.

I'm curious about the first time you pushed yourself when you returned—post-surgery—to performing.

There was a lot of self-pressure.

Do you remember the moment you knew you would be fine?

Believe it or not, it was The Nutcracker at The Morrison Center. I remember sitting on the Snow King's shoulders looking out at 2,000 people in the audience. I thought, "OK, I can do this." It was a wonderful night.

I'm presuming when you give classes to young ladies, a number of them would love to get advice from you.

Not a lot of people get to do this for a living. It's hard work. You can't think it's just going to happen. It takes commitment every single day to make every opportunity your asset.

>Does your work keep you in shape, or is it your discipline outside of work that keeps you in shape?

It's definitely my work. I like Guru donuts.

You probably have to say "no" to a lot of things.

I've learned that there are sacrifices, but there are some things I have to say "yes" to.

What does that mean?

Adventure. Embracing life. If you don't, you'll go crazy.

Are there dance roles that are still on your wish list?

A lot of roles that I've been placed in have required some sass or attitude. But I recently danced Queen Hippolyta in a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream and it was a chance to tap into a softer, sweeter side. I really like that challenge.

My guess is that your work is much harder than we could imagine and that it's your job to make us think it's not as hard as it really is.

You nailed it.

It's stunning you're on your toes as much as you are. What's really hard to do?

The stamina. When you're on stage for a couple of minutes, that's nothing compared to being on the stage for five minutes. And believe me, the Sugarplum variation is quite long. The music is rather light but the choreography is difficult and made to look as if it's nothing. Making a performance look as polished as possible by keeping an audience excited and engaged is a major challenge.

A great performance of The Nutcracker can sometime be the highlight of someone's holiday. I'm presuming you embrace that responsibility.

I know what it was like for me, as a young girl, to say "I want to do that." I want to give someone else that same feeling.

What makes The Nutcracker relevant?

It's timeless and rooted in the classics of ballet and music. Our production is always evolving but still rooted in the classics.

What makes a great Nutcracker versus a good one?

The dancers. I don't want people to come and say, "OK." I wanted them to be impacted by our performance and say, "I need more of this." And we also understand that we're passing on the knowledge and beauty of this artform to the next generation of ballet dancers. That's what this is all about.