In the 2019 production, Dhand was an understudy for the Sugar Plum Fairy, which is what she described as an opportunity many freshmen do not receive. Having already rehearsed the role that year, she said it feels like she is revisiting it now.
Dhand, 22, is the oldest in the third-year class. After her senior year of high school, she was accepted into the ballet program at IU. However, she decided to take two gap years to complete a traineeship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.
Dhand decided to take those gap years after a conversation with the ballet department chair Sarah Wroth. Dhand said Wroth encouraged her to complete the program, and that the ballet program would be happy to have her whenever she decided to attend IU.
“The Nutcracker” is a seasonal ballet with the storyline revolving around the holiday season. Unlike the school’s fall ballet, “A Leap Forward,” “The Nutcracker” is a story ballet as opposed to a ballet with separate pieces.
VVernon said the IU production of “The Nutcracker” is of a professional level and caters to audiences from both Bloomington and around the state. A reason why the show is so common for ballet companies to put on is because the music and story are so well known, he said.
Vernon said another reason the show is popular is because of the amount of children the show has. The show has about 30 children cast in various roles. All of the children in the production are from the Jacobs Academy’s Ballet Pre-College Program. The Ballet Pre-College program is an after-school program put on through the Jacobs School of Ballet for dancers up to 18 years old.
IU senior Jack Grohmann lifts junior Jaya Dhand in the air Nov. 29, 2021, in the Musical Arts Center. Grohmann and Dhand are one of the multiple casts for the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. The show has multiple people casted for each role to allow dancers to have the opportunity to dance principal roles and to allow for understudies.
Sarah Wroth, IU ballet department chair, speaks with Michael Vernon, Professor of Music and choreographer of this year’s Nutcracker, during a rehearsal Nov. 17, 2021, in a ballet studio in the Musical Arts Center. Wroth said the professors within the department each took a portion of the show to focus on during rehearsals.
One of the Clara’s performs during a run through during a rehearsal Nov. 17, 2021, in a ballet studio in the Musical Arts Center. All children casted in the show are from the Jacobs Pre-College Ballet program. The program is designed for children ages 7 to 18 and allows for them to receive ballet training after school from IU faculty and students.
IU junior Jaya Dhand fixes her hair between rehearsals Nov. 17, 2021, in a ballet studio in the Musical Arts Center. Dhand took a two year gap between high school and college to do a traineeship at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.
A man portraying Clara’s godfather and a young girl playing Clara perform during a dress rehearsal Nov. 29, 2021, in the Musical Arts Center. The Nutcracker story follows the tale of a young girl entering a dream world full of fairies, mice and sweets.
Two backstage workers move a set Nov. 29, 2021, after a dress rehearsal in the Musical Arts Center. The show will run in the Musical Arts Center on Dec. 3, 2021, through Dec. 5, 2021.
A woman from the wardrobe department moves the straps of a costume to size them Nov. 17, 2021, in the Musical Arts Center. The costumes for this year’s Nutcracker are the same as the costumes used in the past.
A young girl playing Clara holds up a Nutcracker during a dress rehearsal Nov. 29, 2021, in the Musical Arts Center. There are approximately 30 children cast in the show, IU ballet department chair Sarah Wroth said.
Throughout Act II of “The Nutcracker,” the Sugar Plum Fairy is accompanied by her male counterpart, the Cavalier. The Cavalier is a role many male dancers aspire to have in this production, IU ballet senior Jack Grohmann said.
Grohmann started ballet when he was 13 years old, later than some of his colleagues.
In most professional ballet companies, dancers will keep the same dancing partners so they can become familiar with one another. Vernon said dancers rotate their partnerships at IU for teaching purposes. He said this methodology helps dancers become familiar with different body types, styles of dancing and personality types.
Dhand and Grohmann have danced together in class, but this is their first time performing together in lead roles. The pair originally met in 2016 at the Boston Ballet School summer program.