Interview: Edwaard Liang of THE NUTCRACKER at Ohio Theatre

Liang calls his final run with BalletMet’s Christmas tradition 'bittersweet'.

By: Nov. 25, 2023
Interview: Edwaard Liang of THE NUTCRACKER at Ohio Theatre

When does the winter holiday season actually begin here in Columbus? Is it when Walmart switches out its Halloween candy for candy canes? Is it when Sunny 95 and The River begin their bombardment of the airwaves with “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Christmas Shoes”? Is it when the tryptophan of the turkey wears off or when the alarm clock bell sounds for Black Friday sales?

For Edwaard Liang, the outgoing director of the BalletMet, the preparation for the holidays begins three weeks into September when the dance company begins rehearsal for THE NUTCRACKER. A tradition in Columbus since 1978, BalletMet will present the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky classic Dec. 7-23 at the Ohio Theatre (77 S. State Street in downtown Columbus).Interview: Edwaard Liang of THE NUTCRACKER at Ohio Theatre

“One of the instrumental things in putting on THE NUTCRACKER is the physical aspect for the kids,” said Liang, who is leaving BalletMet for a job with the Washington Ballet at the end of BalletMet's season. “We want to make sure the students are at a higher level because it is quite a demanding run.

“We have so many shows in a row (in December), so we have a lot of rehearsals to prepare for that and build their endurance. There’s a method to our madness.”

Over 100 young dancers will be part of the 25 performances. THE NUTCRACKER has six different casts to split up the slate of shows.

For the Dec. 7, 9 (matinee), 16, 20 and 27 shows, Jessica Brown (Clara), Leiland Charles (Nutcracker Prince), Cooper Verona (Drosselmeyer), Caitlin Valentine (Sugar Plum) and David Ward (Cavalier) headline the show.

For the Dec. 10, 14, 21 and 23 (matinee), Iris R. Dávila (Clara), Beñat Andueza Molina (Nutcracker Prince), Austin Powers (Drosselmeyer), Sophie Miklosovic (Sugar Plum) and Alvin Tovstogray (Cavalier) take over the lead roles.

During the Dec. 8, 10, 15, and 22 (matinee),

Victoria Watford (Clara), Powers (Nutcracker Prince), Ward (Drosselmeyer),

Grace-Anne Powers (Sugar Plum) and Miguel Anaya (Cavalier) are slated to perform.

During the Dec. 10 (matinee), 13, 17, 21 (matinee), and 23 shows, Rie Matsuura (Clara), Zachary Guthier (Nutcracker Prince), Charles (Drosselmeyer), Erica Alvarado (Sugar Plum) and

Narciso Medina (Cavalier) headline.

The Dec. 16 (matinee), 17 (matinee), and 19 shows will be powered by Sumi Ichikawa (Clara), Miguel Wansing Lorrio (Nutcracker Prince), Verona (Drosselmeyer), TyLeigh Baughman (Sugar Plum), and Anaya (Cavalier),

The Dec. 20 matinee highlights Rachael Parini (Clara), Vincent Van Harris (Nutcracker Prince), Ward (Drosselmeyer), Watford (Sugar Plum) and Eli Gruska (Cavalier).

“Working with kids has its own challenges, I guess,” Liang said. “Dance teaches kids about listening, discipline and being able to quiet the mind to express themselves.

Our teachers and our staff are really attuned to being able to guide these young artists in an effective way, so we haven't had big issues at all.”

Liang knows the effect THE NUTCRACKER can have on young people, whether performing it or watching it. While his first ballet was watching the Joffrey Ballet perform in the San Francisco Opera House, his second was THE NUTCRACKER by the San Francisco Ballet.

The ballet still takes his breath away.

“I love the pacing, the timing, and the way the BalletMet tells the story of THE NUTCRACKER,” Liang said “If people have never seen ballet or dance before, I invite them to see how incredibly athletic these dancers are.

“These are superhumans with the way they’re able to manipulate their bodies. We ask their bodies to do things mere mortals can only dream of. I see these dancers perform all the time, but I look at them sometimes and wonder, ‘how do they do this?’”

BalletMet is doing their best to make people get a chance to see these dancers perform. In addition to the standard performances, BalletMet will offer two shortened performances of the production, MY FIRST NUTCRACKER, on Dec. 20 and 21 at 11 a.m. The performance is geared for the youngest fans who might prefer a shorter, less crowded, and more casual environment. The performance is an hour long with reduced noises, friendly character introductions, and calming areas.

“It has humor, heart and so much joy of dance,” Liang said. “It's a great entry point for people to be introduced to not only BalletMet, but to ballet and dance in general.”

And yet, within the excitement of the show, there is a little bit of melancholy for Liang with this being his last time he is doing THE NUTCRACKER in Columbus.

“It's bittersweet. I've called Columbus and Ohio home for the past decade,” he said. “I loved being able to grow with the company and the company being able to grow with me.

“I've been so fortunate to be supported by the Columbus audience, the community, and the arts leadership. It's been an incredible run.”

Photo Credit: Jennifer Zmud