The Nutcracker is all about family. The show centers on the Tannenbaum Family and the magic adventure that takes place during their holiday party. It’s likely that The Nutcracker is part of your own family tradition. This year this sentiment rings especially true for Leading Artist David Hovhannisyan, who will share the stage with a special guest, his son Edmond.
“He’s always wanted to be in it,” says David. “He wants to do the cool stuff. He wanted to be a soldier but he’s still very excited to be an angel this year. He can’t stop talking about it. He says he’s not excited, but he tells everyone about it.”
Edmond, who is eight-years-old, elaborates, “I wanted to play the soldier because I'd dance on stage with my dad when he’s the Nutcracker Prince. There is a lot more dancing for that role and maybe I'd even get to fire the cannon!”
This isn’t Edmond’s first rodeo though. A few season ago he surprised audiences by appearing as a fourth jack doll on stage, a miniature version of the other three. “It was my dad's idea,” he says. “He had my mom make my costume. I don't remember why I wanted to do it but I do know that I had A LOT of fun. I got to fool around on stage and make people laugh.”
Edmond has had to take on extra responsibility now that he’s officially in the cast. Like all 140 Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy students, Edmond has been in rehearsals most weekends since October. David explains, “He knew it would be a lot of hard work because he’s behind the scenes all the time. He sees how much hard work all the Company puts into a show.”
David adds it’s been interesting to experience the rehearsal process as a parent, but he may be guilty of one thing. “It’s kind of funny because I’m starting to become a stage dad. I have to go to his rehearsals, and I’m watching him making sure he’s doing the right steps. The expectations are high. I try to keep it light but I want to make sure that he works hard for it.”
He continues, “I try to do everything all the other parents are doing. I come to all the meetings. We wait in line with the other families. I don’t want him to get special treatment. I think the other parents like that. It’s good for them to see that I’m not off doing my own thing. I’m just a parent like them. They’re very nice.”
One clear benefit of Edmond joining the cast is the additional father-son time the two can enjoy. “I have three kids and I don’t get to spend as much time with them individually as I would like to. It’s nice to spend time just with him when we’re in rehearsals. I’m excited to have him on stage with him with me.”
While some little guys might be embarrassed to admit their father is a ballet dancer, Edmond loves going to watch David dance. “He’s proud of me,” says David. “He thinks it really cool.”
Edmond chimes in, “It’s very cool. Especially when he was Captain Hook and the Nutcracker Prince!” He added that he loves that David is on posters and billboards and people want to take pictures with him after the show. “Hopefully I'll get to take pictures with kids after the show,” he adds.
Going to see dad as the Nutcracker Prince (Drosselmeyer’s nephew Karl in our production) is a highlight for the Hovhannisyan. David explains, “It’s definitely become a tradition. It’s the time of the year the kids wait to dress up in their costumes and go to the show and take pictures with the cast, to see their dad. They’ll come to the show when I do the Prince, and they’ll start screaming when I get on the stage. It’s funny, I can actually hear them.”
What about the David’s two daughters? “They’re very excited to see Edmond do it now, but they can’t wait to do the roles themselves. They love ballet. They’ll be the Snow Queen or Clara someday.”
As for Edmond, he’d be happy to follow in his father’s footsteps as a dancer some day. “I like dancing because I get to move around and be active and get flexible. It also helps me in my gym class.” He adds that he would like to be famous like his “Papa,” but hopefully not too famous because if he got too famous people will never stop bothering him.
You can see David (and Edmond!) in The Nutcracker showing December 8-26 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.