Abby Cockrell says her favorite part of ballet is performing for an audience.
“As dancers on stage, we get to take the audience to a different place for a couple of hours,” she says. “When they come to the theatre, we get to make them feel something, whether that be happy, inspired, sad, or pensive, and that’s pretty incredible.”
The Whitefish native is returning to her hometown this week when she performs as a special guest artist with the Noble Dance Performing Company as it presents “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 6, 7 and 8. Cockrell is a former student of the company and is currently dancing with the Northern Ballet living in England.
Cockrell will be joined on stage in Whitefish by her partner Gavin McCaig as the two professional ballet dancers perform as the Snow Queen and King during the performance.
“I’m really excited to return to Whitefish and Noble Dance for the performance,” she said in an email interview with the Pilot. “I’ve never actually performed in Whitefish as a professional, and I think it’s been nearly 10 years since I performed in the Flathead Valley at all!”
Cockrell joined the Northern Ballet company in 2016. She trained at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and danced in the Professional Division program at Pacific Northwest Ballet and has also been part of the Sibiu Ballet Theater and Bucharest National Opera.
Cockrell began in ballet when she was around age 7 or 8, she says, and began pursuing a career as a professional dancer because she says she loves to dance and express herself through movement.
She says that although rehearsals are a necessary part of the job, actually performing for an audience is a lot more fun.
“I find it much easier to feel the character I’m playing, and just enjoy myself on stage,” she said. “In terms of keeping motivated, I think knowing that in ballet there is always something you can improve upon, always a turn, a jump, an arm movement you can do better, and always a way that you can continue to challenge yourself is what keeps me motivated.”
“It’s not always easy, and some days it is hard to find the motivation,” she added. “But, I’ve learned to accept those days when they come, and know that the next day, I can find the motivation in myself again.”
Cockrell says she’s looking forward to coming home to see her family and friends. She’s also hoping there will be snow and that she’ll be able to take her partner to Glacier National Park.
Cockrell is currently a year away from graduating with a degree in Integrative Health and Medicine. She says she wants to keep dancing professionally as long as she can, but when the time comes she would like to incorporate her interests in health and medicine to her love of dance.
“There are so many areas of dance that I still need to explore before I hang up the old pointe shoes,” she said.
The Noble Dance Performing Company presents its Winter Celebration at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20 adults and $10 for students. All tickets are reserved seating and for sale at nobledance.org.