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Cast of Kansas City Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' highlights diversity on center stage

Kansas City Ballet's Nutrcacker returns
Posted at 6:02 AM, Dec 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-18 07:45:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You have one week left to catch Kansas City Ballet's "The Nutcracker," a Kansas City holiday tradition that’s bringing diversity center stage.

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"The diversity of this company is increasing multiple-fold as the years move forward and I'm very proud of that and thrilled the reputation we have is one of openness, welcomeness and a place of belonging for anyone who's really, truly interested in being a part of the the arts here in Kansas City," said Devon Carney, artistic director with Kansas City Ballet.

For years, the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy has belonged to Whitney Huell, who was cast in 2018 as the first Black woman to hold the lead role in KC Ballet's rendition of "The Nutcracker."

"I think that seeing people on stage that look like yourself, representation really matters," Huell said. "What we do in life echoes in eternity and me being the Sugar Plum Fairy may help and inspire young dancers."

The South Carolina native's talent has been magnified following the installation of a KC billboard featuring Huell. The billboard is located in the Westside neighborhood and overlooks Interstate 35 — one of the busiest highways in the nation. According Huell, the billboard has also grabbed the attention of families across Kansas City.

"I drive by it every day and I get excited," Huell said. "Some people message me saying: 'Oh, I drive by the billboard and for my child that is the highlight of their morning.' I didn't realize how much that would mean to people."

For KC Ballet, the power of diversity taking center stage isn’t going unnoticed. According to a company spokesperson, the current cast line-up includes dancers from, Brazil, Cuba, France, Japan, Siberia and dancers within the BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities.

"My goal with Kansas City ballet as the years roll forward is to more and more reflect who our community actually is, that's really important to reflect that on stage because I want young dancers, potential dancers out there, to have that chance to go. I see myself on stage and that's important because I want our dance field to be accessible and welcoming to all," Carney said.

Attendance for the Nutcracker this season is also reaching new heights. Nearly 39,000 tickets have been sold this year — the highest sales have been in the past 10 years.