PHOTO GALLERY AND ARTICLE: Families take part in local rendition of ‘The Nutcracker’

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—When 10-year-old Emerson Adkins and her sister, 7-year-old Elliana Adkins, get older, both want to be Clara in the local production of “The Nutcracker.”

Right now, they have to settle on their current roles in the show, which include a little angel and small mouse for Elliana and party kid and Mirliton dancer for Emerson.

They both enjoy being in the dance production, which is put on every two years.

“That it’s fun, and I like dancing,” Elliana said about what she enjoys being in the show, adding her favorite part is being on stage.

Her sister had other reasons.

“I like all my friends here and the teachers, and I love being on stage and wearing a costume,” Emerson said.

The production is put on by Newton Dance Connections, a collaboration between two area dance studios, Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts (BCAPA) and Newton Performing Arts Center (NPAC), said Haylie Berning, executive director and director of dance at BCAPA. Berning and NPAC’s owner, Kari Kinkel, come together every other year to co-direct a full-scale production of the holiday classic “The Nutcracker.”

“We are excited for this show to be back on the Bethel College campus this year for the first time since 2019 since our 2021 production was held in Valley Center,” Berning said.

This year, there are about 100 dancers in three shows at Krehbiel Auditorium at Bethel College in North Newton—2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. For tickets, visit

In the production, Emerson is doing ballet, while Elliana is performing ballet and jazz. Through BCAPA, Emerson’s dance involvements/classes include Ruby Company, Sapphire Company, jazz, intermediate ballet and pre-pointe. Elliana’s dance at BCAPA includes acro, tap, ballet and Ruby Company. The companies in which they’re involved perform at various functions, like Taste of Newton, Bethel Fall Fest and at Schowalter Villa. For the Ruby Company, one needs to be invited, while the Sapphire Company dancers need to try out.

Emerson’s been taking classes at BCAPA for two years and has been involved in dance for three years, while Elliana has been dancing for about two years at BCAPA. They are the only two siblings in their family in the production.

Another family, however, has three siblings in the show—Stella, 11, Gwyn, 10, and Davina Clark, 3, and their parents, Brent and Hailee Clark. The Clark parents portray party parents, and Brent also is Drosselmeyer. Davina is a ginger cookie, Stella is a jester and soldier, and Gwyn is a party kid and a lamb.

Brent said they used to attend daddy-daughter and mother-daughter dances at other studios, so they saw an opportunity for the whole family to perform together on stage in North Newton.

Hailee said they asked the girls if they wanted to do that.

“They were excited about it,” Hailee said.

“Creating long-lasting memories,” Brent added.

The two oldest girls were in “The Nutcracker” during a previous year, and this is the first time for the other family members to be involved.

“Being a girl dad, this is something I get to participate in,” Brent said.

Stella likes dancing and performing.

“I like to make friends, and it’s my passion,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since I was 2 years old. It’s just a part of my life.”

Brent said dancing and performing gives the girls self-confidence.

“I get to make a lot of friends, and it’s fun being on stage and performing and just how you can have fun with it,” Gwyn said, adding she’s been dancing for seven years with NPAC, where she’s taking hip-hop, jazz, ballet, modern and acro lessons.

Stella is in jazz, hip-hop, pre-pointe, ballet, tap and modern.

“They pretty much take them all,” Hailee said.

For “The Nutcracker,” they rehearse once a week on the weekends, and rehearsals started in September.

“It’s been fun to see a different side of it,” Hailee said. “It’s really cool to see the students interact with the teachers. All of the teachers do a great job.”

She also said the environment is great to see from the inside, and they get to see their children interact with friends.

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