All About “The Nutcracker” – Q&A with Corps de Ballet dancer Derek Dunn

-by Kassandra Tak, Marketing/Public Relations Intern

Houston Ballet First Year Corps de Ballet Dancer Derek Dunn, took some time to share his thoughts about dancing the roles of Fritz and the Gopak in The Nutcracker, running November 29 – December 29, 2013 at Wortham Theater Center. An interesting fact about Mr. Dunn is that he was awarded a Gold medal in the Senior Division at the 2012 Youth America Grand Prix.

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Dancer Headshot: Derek Dunn; Photo: Amitava Sarkar


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

A. My first ever role in the Nutcracker was a party boy when I was only 6 years old. At that age, I was just excited to be onstage any chance I got. I always enjoy getting the opportunity to act onstage, and since the party scene is filled with lots of acting, this role was very enjoyable for me.

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Dancer: Derek Dunn; Ballet: Clear; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Q. What roles were you cast in for the 2012 Nutcracker performances? How did you feel playing this character?

A. That year, I was given the opportunity to perform the role of Gopak. Although the solo is short, it’s filled with big jumps and turns, and is full of excitement. I had to be very energetic and involved with the audience. The music is fast, which really helped me get my adrenaline flowing. That being my first year in the company, I felt very privileged to perform this role, and I had a lot of fun with it.

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Derek Dunn in rehearsals at Houston Ballet Center for Dance; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

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

A. Throughout our run of The Nutcracker, I get to play multiple different roles, including Fritz, Soldier Doll, Chinese, Mirliton, Spanish, and Gopak.

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

A. I am most looking forward to dancing the role of Fritz. When I was younger, I was given the opportunity to dance that role, so returning to perform Fritz again at an older age is something that I find very enjoyable. I get to bring out my youthful side, through acting and dancing around the stage. I always find theatrical characters to be a lot of fun because it forces you to act in ways that you may not act like in real life.

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Dancers: Nozomi Iijima, Christopher Gray and Artists of Houston Ballet; Ballet: The Nutcracker (Act One) Photo: Amitava Sarkar

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

A. Although I love the whole ballet, I really enjoy the first act of The Nutcracker. In the first act, you get a sense of the whole story. Clara is given a magical Nutcracker that enters her dreams and takes her to extraordinary places. The second act is amazing for the amount of diverse dancing it shows, but I really enjoy the set up of the story-line in the first act. In a way, the second act is like a conclusion to the story, but the first act has many different scenes that take you on a journey with Clara.

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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 – 6 pm.

Watch a video preview of The Nutcracker:  

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