Olympia grad performs lead in local Nutcracker

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Olympia grad performs lead in local Nutcracker
Olympia grad in a previous performance

Those who watched The Nutcracker performance by Studio West Dance AcademyOpening in a new window (SWDA) in Olympia this year might have witnessed a little extra magic on the stage. The lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy was performed by 2021 Olympia High School graduate Hannah Smith. Her partner in the performance, Cole McMason as Cavalier, is also her partner in real life.


Smith returned to Olympia to play the role from her current home in San Antonio, TX, where she studies with Decruz Ballet in their pre-professional training program.


“The Nutcracker that SWDA puts on every year is a really large scale production in a real theater with a stage crew, and lighting crew, and scene changes, and a couple hundred dancers, so being able to perform like that again was so fun,” Smith said. “My boyfriend, Cole McMason, who is also with me here in Texas at Decruz Ballet, was also asked to come back and perform the role of the Cavalier, the prince who dances with the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was a really easy decision because I already dance with him so much and we were able to rehearse over here before we came. I'm really thankful I had the opportunity to guest as Sugar Plum.”


As a student in Olympia, Smith worked with Studio West for 12 years and participated in The Nutcracker almost every year. She’s performed most roles over the years, including Mother Ginger's children, party girl, Spanish lead, Mirliton lead, Snow Queen, Dew Drop, and Sugar Plum. “I've basically grown up performing with SWDA. I probably only watched The Nutcracker from the audience once or twice because I was always performing in it,” she said.


This year was actually Smith’s second time performing the lead role of Sugar Plum Fairy. Her first time was as a sophomore at OHS in 2019. “That was such a hard year, trying to balance multiple honors classes including Honors Biology on top of having the most physically demanding role I've ever had,” she said.


“I think my time at OHS really taught me to push myself to achieve whatever I want to. As cheesy as that sounds, I feel like I really learned how much I was capable of doing, especially during my sophomore year when I took on probably too many honors classes and the Sugar Plum role on the side,” Smith said. “It was so hard, but looking back I realize how much stronger that made me. It also shows me how many mentors I had at OHS, especially Wendy Rae and Becky Blocher in the main office. They gave me encouraging hugs and always supported my ambition to be a professional ballerina, even when I wasn't convinced I could make it. Pursuing a career in ballet is scary, but I know I can try for anything I want to because of what I was able to achieve at OHS.”


Those who knew Smith during her time at Olympia High School say that she left a lasting impression.


“Hannah Smith is beautiful both inside and out and it was a pleasure to have her here at OHS,” said Wendy Rae, administrative assistant to the principal. “When she left to pursue Running Start so she could devote more time to dance, I was thrilled for her and very sad for me. However, if you've ever seen her dance you would know it was the right decision -- she positively lights up and you can tell that she just loves what she does, even though it takes hours and hours of work. Hannah is one of a kind, and it was so fun to watch her grow from a freshman showing me how she sewed up her laces, to seeing her perform the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. I look forward to seeing Hannah in many more performances."


Smith’s current goal is to be a professional ballet dancer. Her current training program is run by former principal dancers Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz from Pacific Northwest Ballet. “It's honestly so wild that I'm training with them because I grew up with them as my idols and they're some of the best dancers of their generation,” Smith said. “They're kind of like the Russell Wilsons of the ballet world.”


Smith’s current training program involves dancing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday through Saturday. She plans to begin auditioning for professional companies next year. Smith earned her Associate of Arts degree along with her high school diploma in 2020. She plans to return to college in the future and study for a career in the healthcare field.


The photo (displayed above) shows Smith performing as Dew Drop in SWDA's Nutcracker in 2019. Photo courtesy of Alex Bunn.