Yoshiko Kamikusa was 6 when her family came to Hawaii in 2002. Within a year, ballet had become her passion and she was a student at Ballet Hawaii. She become good enough to be one of the anonymous child-flowers in Ballet Hawaii annual production “The Nutcracker,” and like all the young students, she watched in awe as the guest stars — members of major national companies — performed.
One of the guest stars was Megan Fairchild, a principal with the New York City Ballet, who closed the show dancing a series of marvelous pas a deux as the glamorous Sugar Plum Fairy.
One night they met backstage.
“I really looked up to her,” Kamikusa reminisced, on the phone last week from her home outside Indianapolis. “I was one of the students dancing in the back, watching her doing Sugar Plum — and then talking with her. I have a photo of us together from that production.
Little did she know that the day would come when she and Fairchild would work together as adults in Ballet Hawaii’s perennially popular annual staging of Tchaikovsky’s most popular ballet.
That “day” is tomorrow.
Fairchild is returning to dance the character now known at Ballet Hawaii as the Sugar Plumeria; she’s danced the role here more than a dozen times.
Kamikusa — a principal dancer with the Indianapolis Ballet since 2018 — is making her professional Hawaii debut dancing the role of Dew Drop.
“It definitely feels like it came full circle, and it means a lot to me,” Kamikusa said.
Kamikusa still has friends here, after leaving Hawaii 11 years ago.
“I really can’t wait for everybody to see how much I’ve grown, what I’m able to put out on stage,” she said. “I’m happy to say that Hawaii is where I started my profession. That’s where I fell in love with ballet.”
After six years in Hawaii, Kamikusa moved to Canada to continue her studies at the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver. She was a member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for five years before moving to Indianapolis.
Kamikusa has danced the roles of Dew Drop, the Sugarplum Fairy, Snow Queen, and Arabian coffee in other productions, but this Dew Drop is different.
Starting in 2016, Ballet Hawaii has given Tchaikovsky’s beloved story a unique only-in-Hawaii spin.
Ballet Hawaii moved “The Nutcracker” from an upper-class household in late 19th-century Germany to Washington Place, Kingdom of Hawaii, in the year 1858. The birds became ‘i‘iwi and a giant pueo (owl), the animals became geckos, sea turtles, brightly colored fish and a cat, and the Snow King and Snow Queen dance in the snow of Mauna Kea.
The flowers include hibiscus and plumeria, and the nutcracker’s toy soldiers wear uniforms patterned after those worn by Kalakaua’s Royal Guard in the 1880s and more recently by the ceremonial guards at the King’s Alley shopping mall in Waikiki.
Familiar faces returning for this year’s “Nutcracker” include Lesley Rausch and Lucien Postlewaite; both are principal dancers from the Pacific Northwest Ballet. They’ll be dancing together as the Snow Queen and Snow King, respectively, in Act I.
Rauch returns in Act II as Hi‘iaka (the Hawaiian equivalent of the female dancer in the traditional Arabian coffee segment), Postlewaite as one of the Hawaiian warriors who replace the energetic Russian dancers in the standard production.
Margaret Severin-Hansen, a principal dancer at the Carolina Ballet, is returning to dance Hibiscus Doll (the Hawaiian version of Columbine) and ‘i‘iwi (marzipan candy).
Also returning after a one-year break is Fairchild as Sugar Plumeria, with Gonzalo Garcia as her Cavalier.
“He’s a very close partner and friend from New York, so I’m very excited that we can go to Hawaii and dance together,” Fairchild said, on the phone from New York. “For us, the pas de deux is completely different choreography from what we had been doing.”
Garcia first performed with the New York City Ballet in 2004; he joined the troupe as a principal dancer in 2007.
“‘Nutcracker’ is special,” Fairchild said. Not only has she been coming to Hawaii long enough that dancers she first met as students are now adults, but she also has fond memories of the professionals she met when she was a child doing her first “Nutcracker,” as a ballet student in Salt Lake City.
“I remember my first Mother Ginger and my first Prince and my first Fritz and all of those people who make that experience such a great memory for you. ‘Nutcracker’ is special like that.”
Hawaii will see Jerome Tisserand dancing Lohiau to Rauch’s Hi‘iaka, Luis Torres as the mysterious Drosselmeyer, Richard Krusch doubling as the Palace Guard Doll and the Saltimbanque Doll, Shane Ohmer making his Ballet Hawaii debut as the Popoke (cat), and Darek Daniels playing the Rat King in Act I and the gigantic Momma Moana (Mother Ginger) in Act II.
Ballet Hawaii faculty member Christianne Moss (Clara) is Tchaikovsky’s young protagonist, and Jose Miguel Rodriguez is her leading man.
Maestra Ann Krinitsky is conducting the Hawai‘i Symphony Ballet.
Fairchild’s return to her customary starring role is all the more miraculous considering that she gave birth to her first child in November, 2018. She had to start at “zero,” she said, to regain her skills as a dancer.
“I was back on stage in April dancing with the company, and it’s been really nice to be back,” she said. “It’s even sweeter to be back after your body changes — you don’t know what you’re going to end up with (while you’re pregnant), what you’ll be able to do. I actually somehow feel stronger and I understand my body better. I’m having such a fun time just going on stage and playing with the steps. I feel like I know my body so well now.”
“I had to rebuild my muscles from scratch, but once I started it came back really quickly. I had fun with it,” she said. “It was almost like a little project for me. I was doing Pilates twice a week two hours at a time, and when I wasn’t doing that I was swimming 20 laps and I had a ballet bar in the pool. I just reformatted all my muscles again.”
Ballet Hawaii’s “Nutcracker”
Blaisdell Concert Hall
7:30 p.m. Friday- Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
ticket master.com or 800-745-3000