Emily Hopp has a new perspective on bringing joy to the world through dancing this holiday season.
Hopp, an elder at Oregon High School, told The Observer she was delighted to help bring joy earlier this month to about 1,200 Afghan refugees staying at Fort McCoy as part of goodwill performances of “The Nutcracker” by the Madison Ballet on December 10th. and 11.
Emily, 18, the daughter of Jeff and Katy Hopp, said the experience was a chance of a lifetime and the audience reaction to the ballet performances was “unbelievable”.
“Those crowds blew up every other crowd I’ve ever performed for outside the stadium,” said Hopp, a dancer since the age of 2 who has performed in smaller productions from “The Nutcracker” to Appleton before his family moved to the area in 2020.
âAt the end of the very last performance, the applause, the whistlesâ¦ it was all so loud at the end,â Hopp continued. âIt made us feel so good to be able to play in front of them. “
The performances took place earlier this fall when Madison Ballet CEO Jonathan Solari launched a plan to bring “The Nutcracker” to Fort McCoy, according to the group’s website.
Fort McCoy, between Sparta and Tomah, is one of eight US military installations temporarily housing Afghans who fled their homeland in August following the withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to news reports. . About a quarter of the total 50,000 Afghan refugees have been sent to Fort McCoy and about 7,000 of them are still awaiting settlement.
During this wait, Solari said he wanted to bring “The Nutcracker” to Fort McCoy as a way “to spread joy this holiday season”.
And so Hopp joined 54 other people on a coach to Fort McCoy for rehearsals on Thursday, as well as two hour-long shows each day on Friday and Saturday.
The cast and crew stayed at a lodge about 30 miles from Fort McCoy, Hopp explained. Arriving at the military post on Thursday, she said it was “surreal” to pass Homeland Security clearance checks, then watch children from refugee families playing in the light snow falling near their barracks accommodation. .
âWe see all of this on TV, but it’s a little hard to believe until you really see it in person,â Hopp said.
The performances were held in a warehouse “completely packed” with 300 folding chairs and a stage assembled for the occasion, said Hopp, a first year dancer at the Madison Ballet school whose main stages of “The Nutcracker “include” Spanish Dancers “and” Flowers “. . The layout included a ‘small hallway and a small room for quick changes,’ she said.
To accommodate logistics, the scenes were limited to those of Act II of “The Nutcracker” and recorded music was performed from Tchaikovsky’s famous score of the holiday classic.
âIt certainly wasn’t what we’re used to,â Hopp said, âbut it was just amazing to be able to bring the joy of the holidays to refugees.â
As a sign of this joy, Hopp said it was likely the audience had never seen a ballet of such quality. While the more seasoned American audience could usually clap “for a big lift” or at the end of a musical piece, the audience at Fort McCoy even applauded for basic ballet movements, such as arabesques, where the weight of the music. body is supported on one leg while the other leg is pointed outward, she says.
âAnd so it was very exciting,â Hopp said, âbecause any little thing could make them clap, and it just fueled our energy.â
The crowd was mostly seated with women and children in the front row and men in the back, Hopp said.
A favorite moment came during the pas de deux “Sugar Plum,” a duet between two of the company’s top dancers, Hopp said.
“A little girl walked up to the front of the stage,” Hopp recalls, “put her arms on the stage and rested her head on her arms. She was just looking at them, with the biggest eyes, and it was so cute.
‘Nutcracker’ experiences end a whirlwind fall for Hopp, a member of the Oregon women’s golf team who, in October, secured an individual berth in the WIAA Division 1 state competition at the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.
In early November, rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” began and the practice was intense, as the show introduced new choreography this year, in part in recognition of Madison Ballet’s 40th anniversary, Hopp said.
Hopp, who plans to study business or finance and play club golf in college, said the Madison Ballet resumed rehearsals this week before nine performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, where the show runs through December 26. .
Hopp said she would bring lessons learned from Fort McCoy to future shows.
âNow I know how much joy the show can bring to an audience,â said Hopp, âSo I’m delighted to be back on this stage and bring joy to many people. “