Attending the Spokane Symphony’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” is a much-anticipated tradition for many, and a great way to launch the holiday season. This year the production is made even sweeter with the inclusion of Spokane native Nora Swoboda.
Swoboda, a 2013 Lewis and Clark graduate, auditioned for the State Street Ballet in January and was accepted into its professional-track program.
Based in Santa Barbara, California, State Street is a well-known company. Its founder and artistic director, Rodney Gustafson, spent much of his career dancing with American Ballet Theater, the premier dance company in the U.S.
“The director appeared in class one day and said they had one spot left (in “The Nutcracker”) and asked if I’d like to take it,” said Swoboda in a phone interview. “I was so excited! I’m honored to dance with this company and to be asked to go on tour.”
A chance to come home for Thanksgiving and spend time with her family was just the icing on the cake. You might say dancing pirouettes in her family. Swoboda said her mother was a dancer and her sister, Leyna, is a professional dancer in San Francisco. Her father, Jim Swoboda, is familiar to Spokane audiences from his role as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” with Spokane Civic Theater, and with the Spokane Symphony Chorale.
In addition to Swoboda, State Street Ballet’s professional dancers are continuing the symphony tradition of sharing the stage with talented young dancers from Spokane-area dance studios, who spend weeks hard at work rehearsing.
Swoboda started dancing at Ballet Arts Academy in Spokane while in kindergarten.
“I’ve never really wanted to do anything else,” she said. “I’m not a brain and sports wasn’t my forte. I can’t throw or catch a ball, but I can bend in half and do all sorts of fun things that don’t come naturally to lots of people.”
After graduation she spent a year at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, but said the program just wasn’t a good fit for her. She jumped at the chance to audition for State Street.
“What I love most about ballet is that it’s an art form you continually have to work out,” said Swoboda. “A lot of people don’t see ballerinas as athletes, but we are in the studio from early in the morning till late at night.”
This isn’t the dancer’s first appearance in “The Nutcracker.” From 2004 to 2008 she danced with the Alberta Ballet’s production. She started out as a baby angel and danced her way up to Fritz.
“I got to dress up as a boy and wear a wig,” she said of the role. “I got a bugle horn and got to cause trouble on stage. It was fun!”
In this production she plays a rat in Act One and a princess in Act Two.
“The rat is a character part and very fun on stage, and my princess dress is so beautiful!”
This also isn’t her first appearance on stage at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.
“I danced on stage at the Fox at the re-opening, but that was many years ago,” Swoboda said. “I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It’s such an honor.”
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