Arts & Culture

No tights required for Friends University's Damian Berry

Five years ago, Damian Berry was a Friends University football player who had never even seen a ballet.

Today, he's known around campus — and throughout Wichita — as the stone-faced, muscular, shirtless performer who adds an air of mystery to the role of Arabian Coffee each year in Friends' performance of "The Nutcracker."

Berry, 22, was recruited for the role by a classmate who was enrolled in ballet at Friends. He was skeptical at first, not sure how his football buddies would view his participation.

"She told me, 'I promise you don't have to wear tights or anything like that. Just come and check it out,' " Berry said.

He did, and he got the role, which involves little actual ballet dancing. His main job is to look mysterious and lift his partner, Friends ballerina Andrea Dimmen.

Berry will graduate this year but hopes to study for his master's at Friends and is open to returning to his role of five years.

Performing in "The Nutcracker" has been one of his favorite experiences at Friends, he said. At one point, he even considered switching his major to ballet.

"Even though I didn't tell anybody, there was always something inside of me that wanted to be a part of something like that," he said. "The fact that I got to do it was pretty great."