Lawrence resident to play role of Clara in ‘Nutcracker’ performance at D.C.’s Kennedy Center

photo by: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios

Lawrence resident and Kansas City Ballet School student Elise Pickert, playing Clara in The Nutcracker, is pictured alongside Kansas City Ballet Dancer Cameron Thomas on Dec. 2, 2021.

As mouse king battles and waltzing flowers take over the stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., this week, Lawrence resident Elise Pickert will be center stage among them, performing the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” with the Kansas City Ballet.

Her starring role on such a big stage comes seven years after Pickert, 14, first performed in “The Nutcracker” with the KC Ballet. Pickert, speaking from D.C. this week ahead of her first performance at the Kennedy Center, went through the various roles she’s played over the years, beginning with the role of a doll she played in her first performance in 2015. She earned bigger roles as the years went on, and was selected to play the role of Clara for the first time last year. When the prestigious opportunity for the KC Ballet to perform at the Kennedy Center arose, Pickert said she was excited and honored to be selected for the role once again.

“It was just an honor to be chosen for such a big opportunity,” Pickert said.

It’s an honor that comes after years of dedication and many hours of preparation. Pickert, a student at KC Ballet’s school, first started ballet when she was three, after seeing her sister dance and wanting to do it as well. She now does online school and dedicates her weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and sometimes longer when rehearsing for a show, to ballet. Pickert said what appeals to her about ballet and drives her to keep doing it is the outlet it provides her.

“The way that I can express emotions through movement,” Pickert said.

photo by: Elizabeth Snell

Lawrence resident Elise Pickert rehearses with KC Ballet member Joshua Bodden for the 2021 performance of The Nutcracker.

The KC Ballet has been performing “The Nutcracker” for 50 years, and premiered a new production by artistic director Devon Carney in 2015, according to KC Ballet spokesperson Ellen McDonald. This is the ballet’s second invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center, following a first performance there in 2017. The KC Ballet will perform seven shows of “The Nutcracker” this week in D.C. and hold its Kansas City shows in December.

When it comes to the show at the Kennedy Center, Pickert said she was excited to be dancing with a new group of people, as the kids in show will be from the D.C. area. While she said she does get a little bit nervous ahead of a performance, the nerves tend to go away once she is on stage. She said one thing she thinks about is that there could be someone in the audience who is at the ballet for the first time, and her performance is a way to share what she loves with them.

“I get a thrill every time I do it,” she said. “And it’s just a way to express myself for everyone else.”

The KC Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” seven times in D.C., beginning on Wednesday and running through Sunday, with Tchaikovsky’s music performed by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. The KC Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker” in Kansas City from Dec. 7 through Dec. 24 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, with the music performed by the Kansas City Symphony. A full schedule and ticket information is available at


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