StormCast: Swoopes in PNB’s "Nutcracker"

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Kevin Pelton, | December 17, 2008
Sheryl Swoopes has played in front of thousands of fans and has attempted shots at the buzzer with games on the line. Yet none of that quite prepared her for the experience of playing Grandmother in Sunday's matinee performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker." As fellow castmembers tried to reassure Swoopes from a slight case of stage fright by pointing to her playing career, she maintained, "This is very different."

Swoopes' day started in makeup, as PNB's staff aged her by decades in a matter of minutes. "Just when you think that they can't make you look any older, they do," she said. After donning the grandmother costume, Swoopes headed upstairs to check out the stage and get a quick chance to rehearse. Her dance partner, six-year-old Jack Haskins, showed Swoopes the steps, while other veterans offered their tips and advice.

When the curtain went up at showtime, Swoopes had only a few minutes before going on stage for her role in the Act I party scene. She pretended to make conversation and headed to the front of the stage to give granddaughter Clara a big hug. After a brief break, Swoopes' performance culminated in dancing. Her biggest challenge? Being able to go under Haskins' arm, stretched as high as it could possibly reach. Putting her nervousness aside, Swoopes came through.

"She did great," said Gerry Bernstein, who helped guide Swoopes playing alongside her as Grandfather.

After changing and reversing the aging process in makeup, Swoopes joined the audience to watch Act II from the crowd. At the performance's end, she greeted fans. All in a day's work for the Storm's star, who now can add the ballet to her impressive basketball resume.

Aaron Last/Storm Photos