The story of a ballet dancer | Rebecca Nugent returns to Humboldt County to star in ‘The Nutcracker’ – Times-Standard
This holiday season, Rebecca Nugent has played two different roles in two different productions of “The Nutcracker” in two different cities.
The 25-year-old dancer portrayed Clara in New Ballet’s “The Nutcracker of San Jose” in the Bay Area from December 18-22. Prior to that, Nugent – a former resident of Arcata – returned to Humboldt County, where she was the Sugar Plum Fairy in North Coast Dance’s first “Nutcracker” weekend from December 10-12 at the Arkley. Center for the Performing Arts in Eureka. (Isabella Buckman, who attends Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, was the Sugar Plum Fairy for the second weekend of production.)
Nugent said: âWhen I was asked if I would be interested in being invited (with North Coast Dance), I said yes without any hesitation, because I wanted to give back to a community that brought me to where I was. am now. “
It was a long road to performing for Nugent, born 2 months prematurely in the small town of Bishoftu in Ethiopia.
âDue to the lack of access to the hospital, my birth mother died after giving birth to me,â Nugent said. ââ¦ My biological grandmother tried to take me to the hospital. I remember she told me they were shocked (that) I was still alive. â¦ I don’t know what she did, but I survived.
âAround the age of 2, my grandmother (fell very ill and) had to abandon me to the nearest orphanage because she could no longer take care of me because she was already struggling to take care for itself, âNugent said. âFrom there, I went back and forth from orphanage to orphanage. I was very hungry when I was a child.
More than 9,000 kilometers away, Timothy and Tami Nugent, social workers living in Elk Grove at the time, were looking to adopt a child. They first saw Nugent’s photo as a child decades ago.
âMy parents wanted to adopt and after a lot of searching one day they stumbled upon my picture and my parents told me this story about how they both looked at the picture and said, ‘This is our daughter. “”
Due to several circumstances – including issues at the orphanage, a war involving Ethiopia, and Ethiopian adoption rules and restrictions, it took almost eight years for the couple to finalize the adoption.
âBy the time my adoption was finalized, there was a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, so it was dangerous for people from another country to fly,â Nugent said. âI ended up being accompanied (to the United States by) the son of the director of the orphanage. We landed in San Francisco where my father was waiting for me.
The Nugents brought their new 9-year-old daughter home to the town of Elk Grove, near Sacramento, where she was first homeschooled as she learned the English language and more about American culture. .
Nugent also began dancing in earnest once she arrived in the United States, although she enjoyed creative movement and music even as a young child in Ethiopia.
âBefore we came to the United States, as an orphanage, we used the dance as a celebration for someone who was adopted,â she said. âThe adults would provide the food and drink and the kids would get together to have a leaving party. The party was always a group dance and some kind of storytelling playing (in) a play that we would write. “
Nugent said: âWhen I first moved to America and my parents made it clear to me that there was a place especially for people who wanted to dance, I was blown away. I first started with hip-hop, tap dancing and jazz. It wasn’t until my hip-hop teacher told me how beneficial ballet would be for my dance and posture that I took my very first ballet class.
Nugent says she took a few ballet lessons at the time, but: âI didn’t have the same appreciation for it back then and didn’t feel like it was that welcoming. Being a person of color in the ballet world is difficult, and while I didn’t quite understand that at the time, something was wrong. Now I realize that was not a battle I was ready for (at the time), âshe said.
When Nugent was 15, her family moved to Humboldt County and the teenager began attending Alder Grove Charter School in Eureka. A year later, Nugent decided to try ballet again through North Coast Dance, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting dance education and performance in Eureka.
She says she fell in love with ballet wholeheartedly around this time.
âAlthough I faced a lot of challenges, the love I had for it was so strong that there was no way I would give up,â she said. ââ¦ As soon as I could, I took several classes a day and focused more on what I could learn rather than what I had lost. I always have a hard time feeling “late”, but all you can do is work each day and let the results speak for themselves. “
Nugent quickly appeared in her first show “The Nutcracker” with North Coast Dance, playing an angel and performing in “Russian Dance”.
When she was 19 or 20, she became an instructor and company dancer at North Coast Dance.
“She progressed very quickly – entered the studio early to work on her own and left late,” said Eliza Klinger, general manager of North Coast Dance. âShe has taught Ballet 1, Pointe du Ballet 4, adult ballet and hip-hop. In 2020, when we had to go virtual, I reached out to Rebecca to teach our hip-hop lessons on Zoom. His students adore him.
Nugent’s ballet world expanded again in 2019, when she moved to San Jose to join The New Ballet as a company dancer. Nugent first danced in New Ballet’s âThe Nutcrackerâ production two years ago.
âMy first year, I was in the body of snow and flowers, I was also a ‘waltzing bougainvillea’, commonly known as Spanish. Lastly and possibly the funniest and most unique role I played was the tap dancing grandma on the party stage, a role created for me because I was one of the few women in the company to be able to tap dance, âshe said.
Klinger says when Nugent moved to San Jose everyone at North Coast Dance was excited about his new opportunity.
âThey have very strong instructors, and we knew it would be a good move for Rebecca,â Klinger said. âWe threw him a huge departure party and the board members came and talked. As a studio, we invested a lot in Rebecca as a dancer and as a person and rallied around her as she entered the larger world of ballet. Tears flowed. “
After a year without live performances due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Nugent returned to the stage this month in “The Nutcracker” in both San JosÃ© and Eureka. She was happy to return to Humboldt County to perform with North Coast Dance.
âThis year has been a whirlwind of emotions,â said Nugent. âThe pandemic took away an entire year of appropriate training and above all, opportunities for representations to communities and dance companies around the world. â¦ What I hadn’t realized was the emotional and physical strength that it would take not only to return to the stage to play “The Nutcracker” after a year without being on stage, but also to do so with a live audience with a mask on and playing the role of Sugar Plum, that was a lot.
She added, “Due to the loving, family-oriented environment that North Coast Dance has built, this was ultimately the best way to kick off the ‘The Nutcracker’ season.”
Klinger says North Coast Dance asked Nugent to come back to the county to perform because, âWe had stayed in touch and knew how much strength she continued to gain as a ballerina in San Jose. We also wanted our current dancers to have the gift of working with her again. Rebecca was a beloved member of our company and our school, and the former students and members of the company were very happy to see her again, even if it was only for a short time.
âOur two guest artists, Rebecca and Isabella Buckman, lifted the spirits,â Klinger said. âIt’s powerful to see someone you share a dance floor with and make a living as a dancer in a bigger world and / or pursue a career in dance. It shows our students that it isâ¦ achievable, and being a professional dancer and being a kind and good person is also possible. It’s not just about being successful, it’s important to be a role model for your fellow dancers. It’s a very difficult career, physically and mentally. It is easy to lose motivation and confidence. Seeing someone you know get up every day and put on their spikes – especially during this pandemic – helps build your resolve. “
Klinger says she cried watching Nugent dance the role of the Sugar Plum fairy on opening night.
âShe was breathtaking,â Klinger said. ââ¦ Seeing Rebecca back on stage at the Arkley Center was a huge success for Rebecca and for North Coast Dance. The students she taught and the dancers she danced with in our company encouraged her and also expressed a great sense of joy in having her home and pride in seeing her perform again.