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Snow Queen Spotlight: Gerda Grows Up

A young girl rides a raft with a man paddling through a school of tiny dancers dressed as fish.

As a young dancer at the Lawrence Arts Center, Emma Davison started a journey that would take her from ballet classes and stage performances to a degree in dance from the University of Kansas. When she danced as Gerda in the 2006 production of The Snow Queen, Emma had no way of knowing that, like her character, the journey would eventually lead her back to the beginning.

Emma Davison poses near the door of the Joan Miró family crypt in Barcelona
At the Joan Miró family crypt in Barcelona

Emma danced many roles during her years at the Arts Center, but three of the most memorable were Snow Queen productions: Gerda in 2006, Robber Princess in 2007, and one of the two Narcissus in 2010. This year she has returned to her dance home and is serving as assistant ballet choreographer for this year’s production. In her new role, Emma choreographed four of the ballet pieces and has enjoyed watching the younger dancers hone their craft.

“I love when I give a correction and the kids take it to heart,” she said. “They improve and grow with each performance.”

Emma started dancing in Baldwin at age two, and came to the Lawrence Arts Center to study ballet at age six. Her love of dance was enhanced by her experiences in a variety of theater productions over the years including West Side Story, Hair, and Cabaret. During her many years at the Arts Center she also took advantage of arts education classes, which influenced her college choices and eventually led her to her current position as a financial and systems coordinator at the Spencer Museum of Art.

“Even though I was in dance, I had a chance to explore acting and visual art,” she said. “I have made lifelong friends and had amazing mentors who cared about me as a dancer and person. The Arts Center put me on a path to study dance and art at the University of Kansas, and now I work at an art museum.”

Ten years later, however, the story of The Snow Queen has pulled her back to the stage. Emma said that returning has brought back memories of her time on stage as a young person navigating her way through a major production.

“Working with dancers and actors of all ages was an amazing learning experience,” she said. “I loved being Gerda one year and Robber Princess the next because I got to play two completely different characters. Acting made my dancing better.”

Emma hopes to share her experiences with the next generation of dancers and actors so that they, too, will benefit from the creativity and community that comes with being part of a major Arts Center production. She said it is their enthusiasm that transforms an already incredible story into an unforgettable performance.

“I know the audience will enjoy this story that they can only see at the Lawrence Arts Center!”


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