Aarón Sanz, Claire Kretzschmar and Clara Miller with Kretzschmar's grandfather, Leo Theonnes. Courtesy Kretzschmar.

When Claire Kretzschmar's 97-Year-Old Grandfather Couldn't Travel to See Her Perform, She Brought NYCB Dancers to Him

New York City Ballet soloist Claire Kretzschmar has had the chance to perform just about everywhere: New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Shanghai, you name it. But one of her most inspiring performance opportunities came a little less than a month ago, dancing with her friends on the wooden floor of a repurposed exercise room in front of 80 captivated residents at the Village Green Retirement Campus in Seattle.



Shortly after finishing up NYCB's spring season, Kretzschmar and two of her fellow company members, corps de ballet member Clara Miller and soloist Aarón Sanz, took the trip out to Seattle to visit Kretzschmar's grandfather at his retirement home. Together, the three dancers performed a short demonstration of ballet technique and partnering, ending with an audience Q&A.

This wasn't Kretzschmar's first performance at Village Green—she's done similar demonstrations twice before on her own. She was originally inspired to stage these performances by her grandfather, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who loves to dance, and even takes line dancing classes three days a week.

"It's a meaningful gift to give to my grandpa and to the other people at the retirement home," says Kretzschmar, "They don't have easy access to see dance like this, because a lot of them are less mobile, but they still want to live a full life. I thought this was just a simple, small way of bringing ballet to them."

Kretzschmar as the Sugarplum Fairy in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

While the Village Green Dance crew (VGD, as coined by Kretzschmar, get it trending!) might be a fledgling operation right now, Kretzschmar has high hopes for what it might become. In the future, she would be interested in building an outreach program for the elderly, bringing more dancers and more ballet to retirement home residents.

"Seeing their reactions to having the three of us come out there, and how even that number made it more exciting," she says, "I realized that the elderly is a really underserved community, and we have these gifts that we can share with them."

For Kretzschmar, one of these gifts, and the highlight of the demonstration, was being able to dance with her grandfather. Before they began, her grandfather pulled her aside and asked if she would be willing to perform the "Tennessee Waltz" with him.

"Fortunately, I knew what to do. I had music on my phone, so I found the 'Tennessee Waltz,' and I said, now I would like to welcome my grandpa up to dance together," she says, "We didn't even have to rehearse, because grandpa knows how to waltz!"

Latest Posts


Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Opera House

Pro Pointe Shoe Hacks from Royal Ballet Principal Yasmine Naghdi

Did you know that Royal Ballet principal Yasmine Naghdi's pointe shoes are actually made up of two different models, combined? Below, watch pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee interview Naghdi on all of her pointe shoe hacks, from her anti-slipping tricks to her darning technique.

Getty Images

Pantry Spotlight: 3 Reasons Why Dancers Shouldn't Overlook Legumes

Beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, soybeans and chickpeas are all part of the legume family, categorized for their pods that contain seeds. Here are three reasons dancers shouldn't overlook this nutritious staple.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy Lopez Ochoa

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa Has Been Choreographing Up a Storm on Zoom and Learning How to Create Dance on Film

"Can you caress the wall?," Annabelle Lopez Ochoa said, frowning to get a better sense of the dancers' living room on her screen. It was April, and the contemporary ballet choreographer was trying something new. Together with two dancers from the Norwegian National Ballet, Julie Gardette and François Rousseau, she was creating a piece entirely over Zoom—the first of what she now calls "a video diary of what dancers do inside."

What was originally a one-off celebration for Rousseau, whose stage farewell was cancelled due to the pandemic, has turned into a larger creative project for Ochoa. Since then, from her house in Amsterdam, she has taken to creating dance films, all three to five minutes in length, with performers around the world. Dancers from Tulsa Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and more have already taken part, with others scheduled in the coming months.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks