All About “The Nutcracker” – Q&A with Soloist Nao Kusuzaki

–by  Kassandra Tak, Marketing/Public Relations Intern

With the holidays around the corner, Houston Ballet’s Soloist, Nao Kusuzaki, took some time to share her thoughts about The Nutcracker, running November 29 – December 29 at Wortham Theater Center. Ms. Kusuzaki joined Houston Ballet in 2004 and she has danced a variety of roles since becoming a Soloist in 2008.

Copy of Kusuzaki, Nao- PamFrancis_edit

Nao Kusuzaki; Photo by Pam Francis

Q. What was your first role in The Nutcracker? How did you feel?

A.  My first Nutcracker roles, with Boston Ballet, included Marzipan, Waltz of Flowers, Snowflakes, and party scene parent. I remember looking forward to this time of the season. I grew up being involved in this production as a student, and dreamed of one day dancing next to dancers I looked up to in the company. In the early years with the company, I performed in nearly 50 shows, which I did not mind.

Nao Kusuzaki Ian Casady_JSC7522 Jackie Rodriguez

Nao Kusuzaki as Clara’s Mother and Artists of Houston Ballet; The Nutcracker; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Q. What roles were you cast in for the 2012 Nutcracker performances?

A. I danced the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Mirlitons, and Clara’s Mother.

Q. How did you feel playing Snow Queen?

A. The snow queen stands at the apex, commanding the transformation from the Battle Scene to the Snow Scene and taking everyone into her world. I enjoy portraying this confident, warm, regal woman. Although it is physically demanding, I imagine what the audience is experiencing in this moment, possibly for the first time, and it sets me free.

The Nutcracker Artists of Houston Ballet

Artists of Houston Ballet; The Nutcracker; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Q.  What role(s) are you playing for this 2013 Nutcracker season?

A. I will be dancing the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Arabian, Waltz of Flowers, Mirlitons, and Clara’s Mother.

Q. Which role are you looking forward to playing? And why?

A. One of the things that make The Nutcracker interesting is having the various roles to rotate throughout the run. For me, I particularly look forward to dancing the Sugarplum Fairy.  I enjoy the challenge for its pure classical technique, as well as in working to embody effortlessness, refinement, elegance and generosity–all of the qualities I envisioned as a young girl in the Sugarplum Fairy. Although I admit that hearing The Nutcracker music outside of the theater during the holiday season, especially after a two-show day, can be overwhelming. I look forward to dancing to this Tchaikovsky score. I think the music in Snow Scene and The Sugarplum pas de deux are so beautifully romantic and emotionally charged. This year, yet again, I’m inspired.

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Artists of Houston Ballet; The Nutcracker; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Q. Which act in The Nutcracker is your favorite? And why?

A. My favorite to watch is the transformation from the Battle Scene into the Snow Scene and until the end of Act I. I cannot get over the dramatic change, which unfolds as Clara kills the King Rat. In a flash the soldiers disappear, the mice escape, the Nutcracker turns into a Prince, Clara is in a Land of Snow where a Snow Queen welcomes her in, and the mood of the music is changed in a matter of seconds. Then, from this calmness reminiscent of first snowfall of the year, the scene builds up yet again. This time with many dancing snowflakes, they create a soaring snow storm, leading Clara’s way to the Kingdom of the Sweets.

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Houston Ballet performs Ben Stevenson’s staging of The Nutcracker, featuring spectacular scenery and costumes by Desmond Heeley, November 29 – December 29 at Wortham Theater Center. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.houstonballet.org/TheNutcracker/ or call 713 227 2787 Monday – Friday 9 am – 6pm.

Watch a video preview of The Nutcracker

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