The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

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Senior forward Blake Hinson (2) drives to the basket during Saturday evening’s game against Virginia Tech in the Petersen Events Center.
Column | Blake Hinson has pro potential
By Aidan Kasner, Staff Writer • February 29, 2024
Women’s History Month event roundup
By Ryleigh Lord, News Editor • February 29, 2024

Pitt Ballet Club brings holiday classic “The Nutcracker” to Bellefield Hall

Pitt+students+perform+during+a+dress+rehearsal+for+The+Nutcracker+presented+by+the+Ballet+Club+at+Pitt+in+Bellefield+Hall.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt students perform during a dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker presented by the Ballet Club at Pitt in Bellefield Hall.

Family and friends filed into Bellefield Hall’s cozy auditorium, making it swell with anticipation and excitement. When the lights dimmed and the ballet’s iconic soundtrack burst from the speakers, a hush fell over the audience.

Pitt Ballet Club brought Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” to life on Sunday, Dec. 3, with back-to-back performances at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m in Bellefield Hall. 

Ballet Club president Lily Pattengill, administrative vice president Victoria Pereira and artistic vice president Callie Laubacher led the entirely student-run production. Admission to “The Nutcracker” was free, but the Pitt chapter of Movement Exchange sold mini flower bouquets, and Ballet Club sold their merchandise and raffle tickets to fundraise at the event. 

“The Nutcracker” was the club’s end-of-term performance and featured dancers of varying experience. Owen Gaskill, a junior civil engineering major, danced the role of the Nutcracker in his first ever ballet production. Gaskill recently joined Ballet Club and said he did so because of a lifelong interest in dance.

“I’ve always wanted to dance,” Gaskill said. “Last semester I joined Pitt Ballet Club, just kind of on a whim.”

As a new dancer with the club, Gaskill said ballet’s inherent difficulty challenged him, but overall, he considers himself lucky because of his opportunities as one of the few male dancers in the club.

“Ballet is definitely one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done,” Gaskill said. “It’s really lucky, I’m one of three guys in the production, so I’m kind of guaranteed a role, [which is] nice.”

Gaskill said it was difficult to dive in with everyone because of the discrepancy in skill and experience, but he is grateful that he gets to dance with them, especially with the character of Clara, played by Emma Luczak. 

“Everyone here is just so talented. Emma [Luczak], who I’m dancing with, she’s Clara, she’s been dancing since she was like three, so she’s just incredible in general, and you’ll see it out on stage,” Gaskill said. “It’s so difficult just jumping right in with everyone else who’s just so fantastic and talented, [but] I just feel so grateful to be able to dance with them.”

Bright lights and bejeweled costumes beautified the ballet, but the process to bring the production to life was not always as glamorous. Lily Pattengill, an athletic training graduate student, said the production being completely student-run created some challenges.

“There’s so many last minute challenges and messes that happen because we’re all students,” Pattengill said. “There are always little things that happen, like people showing up late or things not working out how they were supposed to.”

The audience was very responsive throughout the performance. Laughter and shock rippled through the auditorium when some of the mice ran through the crowd, and Clara and the Nutcracker’s pas de deux garnered gasps and thunderous applause.

Nora Johnson, first-year biology major, saw “The Nutcracker” for the time on Sunday. She said it was great overall, and she loved getting to watch her friend and Clara dance the most.

“I loved it! It was really good,” Johnson said. “I loved watching my friend dance, she was one of the angels, but I also thought Clara was really good!” 

Pitt Ballet Club stayed true to classic productions of “The Nutcracker” through the inclusion of characters like the angels, but the club also creatively reimagined elements to bring humor to the stage. Pattengill, dancing as the Rat King — or Queen — forwent the traditional Rat King costume, instead donned a black boxing robe bedazzled with the word “rat” and a crown. The audience chuckled at this unexpected detail but full-belly laughed when a miniature car, with one squeaky-wheel, ultimately carted Pattengill off stage as a makeshift stretcher. 

With the threat of finals on the horizon, “The Nutcracker” brought some much-needed humor and holiday cheer to campus. Bellefield Hall was the picture of festivity, with a fully lit Christmas tree, piles of presents and paper snowflakes and peppermints adorning the stage. The ballet’s iconic musical score and the sound of pointe shoes kissing the stage added to the nostalgia of the classic Christmas production. 

The students involved in the production had to juggle preparing for “The Nutcracker” with making sure their study habits remained on point. Gaskill said balancing rehearsals and studying was challenging, but ultimately, he finds ballet stress relieving, and it gives him a break from other work.

“It’s definitely been difficult balancing the workload,” Gaskill said. “But it’s also a great stress reliever and break, honestly.”

Pattengill said the thought of the audience enjoying “The Nutcracker” motivated her and that the hard work was worth it despite the challenges because ballet is something she loves.

“When I’m working on costumes and everything, or planning everything, I just think about how much fun everybody else is gonna have,” Pattengill said. “It’s something that I care about, it’s something that I really love, so it all kind of makes it worth it.”

About the Contributor
Daniella Levick, Staff Writer
Daniella Levick is a first-year English poetry writing major. She is Australian, a shameless Oxford comma enthusiast and crazy cat lady who spends an embarrassing amount of time trying to stop her kitten from walking on her keyboard. In her free time she daydreams about a parallel universe where her to-be-read pile is not taller than her.