Kodiak High School senior Kaelie Polhemus has dreamed of performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” for most of her life. On Friday her dream will become a reality.
“I’ve been wanting to be the Sugar Plum Fairy since I was a little girl. And finally realizing that I’m the age of someone that can dance this role, it’s pretty crazy,” said 18-year-old Polhemus. She will finally be able to dance the iconic Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
“The Nutcracker” recounts the adventures of Clara who befriends a nutcracker on Christmas Eve, is taken through fantastical worlds and eventually battles the Mouse King. The ballet, which will be performed Dec. 6-8 at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium, is presented by the Kodiak Arts Council and next Step Dance Kodiak.
The Sugar Plum Fairy, “is the top dog of the Land of the Sweets. She has a pretty big role in the whole scene: crowning Clara and welcoming her into the kingdom, and she dances with the prince,” Polhemus said.
Polhemus said she is most excited about the role because she will be able to partner with a professional dancer, Nic Gili from Idaho. Gili has trained at the Kirov Academy and at summer intensives with Ballet West and Boston Ballet.
Partner dances allow ballerinas to jump higher and do moves they could not do on their own. With few male dancers in the industry, the opportunity to dance with a male partner is rare, she said.
Although she learned the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy with Gili only on Friday, she learns fast, Polhemus said.
Her practice was cut short with Gili after Polhemus sprained her ankle on Sunday.
“I had rehearsal with him Saturday and Sunday, and that’s it. And then I got injured after I danced that dance on Sunday,” said Polhemus, who is taking precautions to heal her ankle in time for Friday’s performance.
To learn the choreography, Polhemus and Gili watched Royal Ballet videos on YouTube and were coached by Mary Beth Loewen, owner of Next Step Dance Kodiak. Most of the choreography stays true to the original ballet, but Loewen changed some of the lifts to make them more “spectacular and showy,” Polhemus said.
Loewen, who has taught Polhemus for the past two years, said her student is a hard worker. Polhemus started practicing her choreography even before rehearsals began, Loewen said.
“She has looked forward to doing this role for many years. It is a role that many dancers dream to do, especially in Kodiak,” Loewen said, adding that it is a pleasure to watch Polhemus dance and perform onstage.
Polhemus, the daughter of a Coast Guard servicemember, has trained in ballet since she was 3 years old.
While living in Reno, Nevada, a few years ago, she trained about four hours per day for four years at the Nevada Dance Academy. She also competed at the world-renowned classical ballet competition Youth America Grand Prix. In 2017, she was the national scholarship winner for Encore Dance Competition.
Although Polhemus has lived in Kodiak for the last two years, she also lived on the island when she was in elementary school.
Since returning to Kodiak, Polhemus has performed in “Le Corsaire” in the lead role of Medora and “The Wizard of Oz” as the Scarecrow.
“For a small island you wouldn’t think there is such good ballet. I love the ballet here,” Polhemus said. “You get more one-on-one time with your teacher. It’s just a small town feel.”
In the Lower 48, Polhemus primarily trained in the Cecchetti method, an Italian style of classical ballet, which varies from the Russian style practiced in Kodiak.
“Cecchetti is more about how your lines look, how your body would look from the audience,” she said. “The Russian way is not as prominent on the artistic and visual aspects like the Cecchetti. They are more focused on technique.”
Polhemus said she loves ballet because of the dance’s rules and orderliness.
“Ballet gives you that opportunity to grow and progress over time. It feels amazing once you master those hard steps,” Polhemus said.
Despite her passion for ballet, she is not planning on pursuing a professional ballet career, because of its difficulties — highly competitive, low pay, short career span. Instead, she wants to become a dentist.
“I’ll probably dance in college, but making it my whole career probably won’t happen,” Polhemus said.
If you go
Friday’s performance begins at 7 p.m., while Saturday’s shows start at 2 and 7 p.m. The final show is Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at kodiakarts.org or by calling the Kodiak Arts Council at 486-5291. Tickets will also be available at the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium box office an hour before each show.