Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. For the holidays, we welcome guest blogger and ballet dancer, Patrick Green, who plays the Nutcracker Prince lead in Ballet Quad Cities’ “The Nutcracker.”
Tell us about your journey to becoming a ballet dancer.
Growing up in Washington DC, my family frequently attended live theater and music events. My parents claimed it was the only time that the 3 of us would sit still. We were the only kids who ran toward the orchestra pit at intermission instead of the lobby!
When I was 9, my mom took me to open auditions for young boys in the party scene for The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker. It went well because afterward, Mary Day, the company founder, declared that she wanted me to take ballet lessons in her school. My surprised mom asked if this was what I wanted, and I simply nodded. My dad, a former college football player, just smiled broadly with a “good for you!” My parents have never stopped supporting me since that moment.
Tell us about the physical demands of a dancer’s training.
Dance for me is so much more than exercise. I have always been happiest when dancing.
A dancer’s greatest fear is injury. I am in the studio constantly moving 6 days a week pushing my body to the limit. There is no time off from good nutrition, exercise and rest.
Flexibility and strength go hand in hand, and I try to stay balanced between the two. I find the time to take good care of myself because of the organization and structure inherent in ballet.
Some days I am better at it than others, but what is clear is that dance defines how I approach every day. There is a saying that ballet is training for life. That being said, there are definitely days when I go home and dig into a pint of ice cream!
What is your favorite aspect of ballet dancing?
During a performance, there’s a feeling that isn’t really like anything else. Everything that you’ve been working towards, and oftentimes struggling with, just tends to fall away. It’s such a rewarding feeling at that point because you feel on top of the world when all of the work pays off. You have this internal feeling of accomplishment, and that’s amplified because you get to share it with an audience. There’s no feeling quite like taking the final bow in a performance where everything has gone perfectly.
I’ve lived in the Quad Cities for about 2-1/2 years now, and I lived in Indianapolis for 4 years while attending Butler University prior to moving here.
It’s definitely different here. The East Coast is fast-paced, with everyone moving all the time, rushing from one place to the next. The Quad Cities is far more relaxed and much more personal.
I’ve had conversations with Quad Citians about the ballet and they’re always open to the idea of coming to see us perform, which creates a nice sense of community for us as artists.
What do you like to do when you are not dancing?
I try and stay pretty active while I’m not dancing. I have been a FIFA certified soccer referee since I was 11 years old, nearly as long as I have been dancing. I played soccer when I was younger, and started officiating games as a side job and as something to do on the weekends, then I really took to it.
Since I moved to the Quad Cities, I also picked up fencing. During my first season, I performed the role of the Rat King. The Nutcracker and Rat King fight with real swords, which made me understandably nervous. I started fencing on the side as a way to be more confident with the sword fight, then discovered that I really enjoy it!
Tell us about your lead role in the Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker Prince is a unique character in ballet. He appears in the Battle Scene as a life-size doll with the singular thought of defending Clara against the Rat Queen and her forces. He dies, and then is brought back to life as a man through a spell that Drosselmeyer casts at Clara’s request. He’s grateful to her since she saved his life, and that’s really the motivation for the rest of ballet; leading her through the Land of the Snowflakes and then to the Kingdom of the Sweets.
The role is demanding. I’m onstage for a lot of time once the battle begins, so I have to have the stamina for all of it. Beyond that, there are different movement styles within the character. During the Battle, the Nutcracker is a wooden doll made life size, so the movements are sharper and more angular. My arms have to be straighter and more direct. Once the battle is over, however, the Nutcracker becomes human and the movements have to change. The dancing becomes more expressive and more fluid, something I really had to focus on during the rehearsals.
It’s a holiday tradition. I started dancing ballet because of The Nutcracker, and I look forward to it every year, and I think every dancer does, which comes through when we perform. The music is excellent and popular, appearing in everything from advertisements for pick-up trucks to a ballet based commercial for Bailey’s Irish Cream.
The score has a lot of variety to it as well, which allows for completely different choreography from scene to scene. The differences in choreography showcase many different dancers in different styles of dance, which means that the audience doesn’t tend to get bored with what they’re seeing. Since it’s such an established art form, people are surprised sometimes with how humorous The Nutcracker can be. And, I can guarantee you, we’re having fun when we’re performing it.
Get information and tickets for Ballet Quad Cities’ The Nutcracker on their web site.