Got the winter doldrums? We've got the perfect remedy! Meet Coutney Kramer, ballerina, bouncing ball of energy, and our own personal ray of sunshine. Kramer's sharp dancing and bright smile have made her a crowd favorite so I thought it would be fun to sit down to chat with her about The Nutcracker and what it means to her as a dancer.
Most people say The Nutcracker is the first ballet they ever saw. Is this true for you too?
Oh yes, and by the 2nd Act I was dancing in the aisles because I couldn’t sit still.
Was The Nutcracker then also the first ballet you ever performed in?
Yes, I was a special Dew Drop. It is similar to the Angels we have here, but we had two main little Dew Drops and I was one of them. And even now I still get those excited/nervous butterflies in my tummy before I perform!
How many years have you performed in the show?
I have been performing in the show since I was 6 years old, except for 2 years while I was at the University of Arizona where we did a mixed bill instead of The Nutcracker.
Does your family still come to see you in it?
I am so fortunate that my family lives in Northern Illinois, so they never miss a series. You will probably find my husband and the rest of my family in the audience for a handful of Nutcracker shows this year!
Do you have a favorite role to play in the show?
I LOVE each role I perform because they allow me to focus on bringing out a different characteristic of my personality, and each one challenges me in different ways in terms of technique.
- Shepherdess: I love starting off as a sharp, mechanical robot doll with a big smile on my face. Then changing into a sweet, motherly lady with the three geese. Plus, if you are not too distracted by the adorable geese the dancing is a long, hard variation loaded with jumps and turns!
- Spanish: Well who doesn’t like pulling out the sassy señorita full of fire and attitude! As for technique, I’m thinking be sharp, be precise, and dance as big as my 5’ 3 ½” frame will let me.
- Snow Queen: Snow Queen is new for me this year, and I am so honored at this opportunity. I try to portray a strong, regal queen with a fun and exciting air about her. Because, come on, the audience isn’t the only one who laughs when Fritz slips and falls in the snow! Not only is this dance lightening quick, but it is very demanding technique-wise, especially on the piles of snow.
- Clara: Clara is such a special role with a lot of artistic freedom. I get most of my inspiration for being a devilishly, adorable little girl from my two nieces, but my father says that watching me perform Clara is like watching an old home video from when I was 6 years old! The challenging part about Clara is not forgetting your technique while acting, and vice versa, not forgetting your character while dancing!
What is your favorite thing about performing The Nutcracker every year?
Besides the unforgettable feeling you get while performing in front of an audience, I love the homey, family atmosphere of being backstage and my dressing room all decked out in Christmas lights!
You can see Coutney in any (or all!) of these roles throughout the remainder of The Nutcracker (running through December 26)! And if you see her bouncing around the Marcus Center, be sure to smile and say hello. She'd love to chat with you.