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Young local dancers to perform in The Nutcracker with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

By Alejandro Bustos on November 27, 2013

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The Nutcracker is arguably the most famous ballet ever composed.  Premiering in 1892, this lovely Christmas story has captured the hearts of millions, and in the process become an annual tradition around the holiday season.

This year the internationally renowned Winnipeg Royal Ballet performs this timeless classic at the National Arts Centre from December 4-8.

In advance of this highly anticipated show, Apartment613 decided to do something a little different.  Rather than interviewing the principal dancers, we opted instead to go backstage and speak with some local ballerinas who were selected to play the role of angels in the show.

Ballet companies that perform The Nutcracker regularly pick local boys and girls to be extras.  Ranging in ages from 9 to 12, the five young girls that we spoke to were ecstatic about having the opportunity to work alongside world class dancers.

Some spoke about their parents crying, others about jumping up and down with joy, when they learned that they were chosen to perform in Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

“I was really, really happy,” says Hailey Duncan, 11, when asked to describe her reaction on learning that she was cast in The Nutcracker.

This initial excitement turned to nervousness, however, when rehearsals started.  “At first I got scared,” she confides, while describing her initial experience with a professional ballet.

Then with a smile she adds: “I thought I was going to be, ‘Oh my gosh!’ but then I found it to be all right.”

While three of the five girl are dancing in a professional production for the first time, two of girls are returning for their third  performance of The Nutcracker.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” says Santina DeMarinis, 11, who was cast in the role of a mouse last year.  Even though she had danced in The Nutcracker on two previous occasions, the butterflies did not disappear from her stomach before she was told that she would be back for a third time.

Twelve-year-old Chloe O’Malley is the other veteran returning to the NAC stage.

“My favourite was the Pennsylvania Ballet,” says Chloe about her 2011 Nutcracker debut, when she danced with the well-known U.S. ballet company.  When the Alberta Ballet came last year, she was cast in the role of a mouse.

Her experience notwithstanding, Chloe still beams when asked how she feels about getting the chance to be on the NAC stage once again.  “I try not to be too nervous,” she tells me.

For the other two dancers, both of which are making their Nutcracker debut, working with a professional dance company is an opportunity that needs to be relished.

“I’m trying to enjoy the time in rehearsal … because it’s going to be done soon,” says nine-year-old Natasha Klemen, with a wisdom beyond her years.

This sentiment is echoed by ten-year-old Samantha Belliveau, who is embracing the challenge with open arms.  “You try to be the best that you can,” she says.  “Even if you do fall, it doesn’t matter.”

Canada’s Winnipeg Royal Ballet perform The Nutcracker from December 4-8.  Regular tickets start at $53, while cheaper options are available for students.  All shows start at 7 pm, except for the matinees on Saturday, December 7, and Sunday, December 8, that begin at 1:30 pm.