A family affair: Madsens to perform in Nutcracker

Story and photos
by Dwain Hebda

It’s unseasonably balmy outside, but in the main rehearsal space of Shuffles & Ballet II in Little Rock, it’s already starting to feel a lot like Christmas. The first rehearsal for “The Nutcracker” performances have commenced and about 20 pint-sized angels are listening intently to directions handed out by the instructor. 

Reagan Madsen is the smallest of them all and stands patiently on the end of her row. All the other girls have a partner to lean on, but there’s an odd number here today, so Reagan is on her own.

It doesn’t seem to bother the 6-year-old much; even when she’s given head-of-the-line responsibilities, she rises to the challenge. 


Out in the reception area, Reagan’s sister, Sydney, 9, doesn’t have to rehearse today, but will soon polish her role as a mouse. The two girls will be joined by their mother, Christina Munoz-Madsen, in the annual Ballet Arkansas show, and it’s an opportunity that has yet to fully sink in with mom. 

“We have gone to ‘The Nutcracker’ every year since they were little, so they were very familiar with it,” Christina said. “I was curious if Reagan was old enough, and they said she was. We talked about it, and we said this is something all three of us can do.” 

Munoz-Madsen is more than just an invested patron of the arts in general, and the ballet in particular. The former Little Rock news anchor, now associate vice president for communications, public relations and marketing at University of Central Arkansas, has danced since she was younger than her girls. She first appeared in “The Nutcracker” at age 4 as a mouse, and she danced seriously up through college. Even after she got into broadcasting, she continued to take classes wherever she was. 

The same scenario played out when she landed in Little Rock in 2003, and her dedication to the art form led her to a seat on the board of Ballet Arkansas for four years, two as president, and multiple onstage appearances in “The Nutcracker.” 

“I would be whatever role they needed,” she said. “Channel 7 loved it because it was community involvement; I would just take off the nights that I had rehearsal or had to perform. It was so much fun, and I loved it.” 

Christina and her husband, Dave Madsen, struggled to conceive, and her pregnancy with Sydney was considered high risk, which took Munoz-Madsen from the stage to the audience, at least temporarily. 

“I always said when my kids are old enough to join me onstage, maybe I’ll come back,” she said. “And we realized it’s been exactly 10 years. This is the first year that they’re both old enough to do ‘The Nutcracker.’” 

Sydney, a third-grader, said auditioning was a little nerve-wracking, but ultimately it was fun to be cast. It’s hard to imagine anything intimidating Reagan, whether it’s scoring soccer goals or showing off her dance moves. 

Munoz-Madsen said the importance of dance in the Little Rock community shows in how it positively affects children no matter how social or shy they may be. 

“I was shy when I was young,” she said. “I came out of my shell in fifth grade, and theater and dance were what taught me presence and taught me how to be on a stage and how to be in front of others. I said I never would have been able to be a broadcaster if I didn’t have that background.” 

As for juggling the rehearsal schedules for all three Madsens, plus work, school and other extracurricular activities — and during the holidays to boot — Munoz-Madsen said it’s uncharted territory for the family.

Ballet Arkansas will present “The Nutcracker” at Robinson Center Music Hall with performances Friday, Dec. 8, through Sunday, Dec. 10. For more information, please visit balletarkansas.org.

“It’s going to be crazy, and maybe it’s going to be too crazy and maybe we’ll never do this again,” she said. “Or maybe we’ll love it and it will become a family tradition. We don’t know. We’re very aware that balancing everything with school and Christmas, it’ll be very busy, but we’re just so excited. 

“I never imagined wanting to spend as much time with my kids as I do. I just like hanging out with my own kids; we have so much fun together. And we are in different portions (of the show), so we can still watch each other. We like that, too. Being on stage at the same time would have been cool, but it’s also cool to watch each other.”