Laura Smith’s final performance in The Nutcracker for Columbia Dance will be sponsored by her grandmother, who passed away in October
The artists dance, showcasing their talent, their emotion.
The audience reacts.
Live performances are truly magical.
“When you’re on stage and you look out into the audience and you see all these faces looking back at you, you really get this connection, a shared experience,” said Laura Smith, member of Columbia Dance. “Not only are you giving to the audience, but the audience really gives back to you. When you have an energetic audience, it really fuels you. It elevates you to a whole other level that you can’t get anywhere else.”
For years, Smith has danced on stage in front of a special member of the audience. Her grandmother, Rev. Glenda Hart, never missed a performance. Hart was there when Smith first started dancing at Columbia, when Smith was 3 years old. Hart was there for Smith’s first Nutcracker performance, when Smith was 6 years old.
“Every single year, she was there with her bouquet of flowers and her support,” Smith said.
This week, Columbia Dance will perform its rendition of The Nutcracker — with a Fort Vancouver history angle. Smith has one of the leading roles as Moon Woman in her grandmother’s favorite part of the Columbia Dance’s adaptation, the snow scene. (Moon Woman dances to Snow Queen’s music in the traditional The Nutcracker.)
“I called her and I got to tell her my parts this year,” Smith said. “Hearing her voice, how excited she was … She got to hear the news.”
A week or so later, Hart passed away, but she will still be part of the performance this year, with her presence felt all over the Columbia Dance.
“She was super, super excited to find out that I got to be the lead in snow scene this year,” Smith said. “She passed away the day before I tried on the costume for the first time.”
Hart’s love for her granddaughter, for ballet, and for Columbia Dance remains. In fact, Hart, via instructions in her will, is sponsoring Laura’s final performance in Columbia Dance’s The Nutcracker.
“Our closing night show, on Sunday, when I’ll be doing my last run as Moon Woman, it will be sponsored by her,” Smith said. “Nice to know a part of her will be there even if she isn’t there in person.”
The Nutcracker opens Friday, Dec. 15 at Skyview High School. There are two performances on Saturday and two more on Sunday.
In 2021, the company performed the first act of its localized version of The Nutcracker. Last year, Columbia Dance debuted the entire performance. It was a hit.
According to Columbia Dance, there are tutus and Tchaikovsky, magic and mystery, as well as a one-of-a-kind production that features beavers fighting fur trappers, dancing wapato plants, and Oregon Trail children arriving via covered wagons.
For Smith, it is the final Nutcracker performance of her career with Columbia Dance. A senior at Skyview High School who is a Running Start student at Clark College, Smith is planning to attend a four-year university to major in marketing and minor in dance. She says she will always return to Columbia Dance to take classes and volunteer, to help out in any way she can, to give back to the place that has given her so much.
“Dance is a place of community. I have friends here I have danced with since before I barely could do a grand plie’,” Smith said. “Not only is it great physical activity and artistic expression, but it really got me through the pandemic. It brightens my mood every time I come through these doors.”
Columbia Dance is also a place of triumph for Smith. In January of 2021, Smith fractured her back while sledding.
“What am I going to do for dance? That was really scary,” Smith recalled.
She was able to take the right course of action, through hours of physical therapy, in order to return to the dance studio.
“Even when I did get back, it was 15 minutes, then 30 minutes,” she said. “It took a good long time before I could do a full class again.”
She said she was proud of herself for gaining the strength to perform again.
“I remember the first time I was able to jump again,” Smith said. “It was just the most freeing feeling ever. I felt like I could fly again.”
Columbia Dance’s The Nutcracker
All performances at Skyview High School’s Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th Street, Vancouver
Friday, Dec. 15: Sensory friendly performance, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec 16: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m performances
Sunday, Dec. 17: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. performances
Tickets: $23 for adults, $18 for youth/senior
Tickets can be purchased at: www.columbiadance.org
Columbia Dance was founded in 1989 as a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to enriching lives in the community through dance.
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