Dallas — The brainchild of Director Katricia Eaglin, Dallas Black Dance Academy’s (DBDA) Espresso Nutcracker was supposed to be a small, in-house performance in celebration of the school’s 45th anniversary last year. But as interest bloomed the production had to be moved to the Latino Cultural Center. With an even bigger crowd expected this year, the second annual Espresso Nutcracker will take place at The Majestic Theatre in Dallas on Friday. There has been so much excitement that the show is already sold out.
“I wanted to do something as a surprise for Ms. Ann Williams in celebration of the school’s 45th anniversary,” Eaglin says about coming up with the idea for the show. “I thought we would start off small and maybe two or three years later we would be able to move into a small theater. But no, last year we ended up at the Latino Cultural Center three weeks before the program because we had such an incredible parent response.”
As to what makes this show different from the various other Nutcracker productions happening around town, Eaglin says it really comes down to three things: Duration. Title. Musical choices.
“I knew I didn’t want to do a two-and-a-half-hour Nutcracker,” says Eaglin. “So, ours is only an hour long with a short intermission. And when I looked up names I saw that there is an Ebony Nutcracker and a Mahogany Nutcracker and I just thought “Espresso” would be good because it can be used to describe both scene and color.”
She adds, “And during my research I found that Duke Ellington had a version of the Nutcracker Suite. It’s not the full Nutcracker Suite, but I thought maybe we could use some of these songs and so we did.”
And unlike most student-led Nutcracker productions in the area, DBDA will not be flying in professional dancers for lead roles such as Snow Queen and Sugar Plum. Instead, Eaglin says these roles will be performed by students to give them more opportunities to shine on stage.
Eaglin notes that the audience will also see a few members of Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) in the adult dance at the beginning of the show as well as DBDT: Encore! Artistic Assistant Richard A. Freeman, Jr. in the role of Drosselmeyer. And in addition to Eaglin the show will also feature choreography by DBDA instructors Sierra Noelle Jones, Daijhia Kirk, Bianca Melidor, Zion Pradier, Sean Smith, De’Anthony Vaughan and McKinley Willis.
Stylistically speaking, Eaglin says it’s a well-balanced program with the dancers performing in various dance forms, including classical ballet, modern, jazz, African and even a little bit of tap dance. “I really wanted to give the students an opportunity to do dance styles outside of modern dance, which is usually what they do when performing around town,” explains Eaglin. “This show gives them the chance to showcase the well-rounded training that they receive at the academy.”
Even though this is only her third year as director of DBDA Eaglin has a long history with DBDT, which includes dancing with the professional company from 2005-2015. She also has been the director of DBDA’s Allegro Performing Ensemble since 2012 and a DBDA instructor since 1998.
Eaglin is a Dallas native and a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She has a BFA in dance from the University of North Texas and a Masters in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to DBDT, Eaglin also danced with Nia Dance Theatre and Kukosa Kuunga Phrase II and was the founder and director of Freedom Dance Ensemble. Locally, she has performed with Muscle Memory Dance Theatre and 6 O’Clock Dance Theatre.
Eaglin says her passion for teaching developed at a young age. “I was a pretty quiet student and I absorbed information quickly. So even as a young person my teachers would have me share information with other students.”
She adds, “Teaching has always been more of a calling. It wasn’t really a choice. Plus, my mom was a teacher and so was my brother before he became a principal, so it’s in my blood.”
The call from Ms. Williams about the director position didn’t come as a surprise to Eaglin who says the DBDT matriarch had been grooming her for years to one day take charge of the school. “I wasn’t super shocked when she called because over the years she has been dropping nuggets here and there to groom me for the role. For example, during recital she would ask me to take over stage managing so she could do something else. And on Saturdays she’d say I need to make sure this happens while she’s gone or handing out checks and making sure people get paid.”
Even though she knew the call would come one day Eaglin says she still needed some time to sit down and pray about it. “I get my confirmation as an artist if I think of something creative that I can do then I get excited about it. So, once I thought about the academy and ways I could use my creativity then I got excited and said yes I can do this.”
As an educator Eaglin believes that teaching is about sharing. She explains, “Most teachers, whether they want to or not, they’re trying to understand the language of their students so they will learn how their students learn. That’s really important to me, whether you’re an adult or a child: what ways do I need to change the way I am saying something so that it can translate to you?”
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com