Advocacy Articles

December 30, 2014 - 3:16pm PST

Northern Nevada Dance Students Connect with Ballet

For ballet dancers and ballet students across the country, December means performing “Nutcracker.”

Each December Sierra Nevada Ballet performs in Carson City at the Community Center and in Reno at the Pioneer Center presenting, “The Peanutcracker — The Story in a Nutshell,” a specially designed, shortened and narrated version of the Tchaikovsky ballet for families with children. In addition to the public performances this year, SNB presented four special school shows and performed for over 4,000 school children in Washoe and Douglas counties.

Each year the SNB company receives hundreds of thank you letters and fan letters from audience members which gives us an idea of the audience experience. What about the performing experience?

Emilee Bryan (age 11), who performed the lead child’s role of “Clara,” explains that she loves performing Peanutcracker because she gets to dance with more experienced professional dancers, and “They are really good, and that inspires me. Their good technique shows me what to work toward.”

Lucia Ferrari and Steven Heinrich (both age 12) are new members of the SNB Trainee program. Lucia loves meeting all the children from the audience after the performance and hearing how much they loved it. “One little girl was even dancing down the aisle of the theater.”

Steven also likes meeting the young children in the audience as well as being around the more experienced dancers. “It is really fun, and it is also hard work. You learn so much in ballet that can help you in every aspect of life.”

Todd Lani (age 17) and Clara Bachman (age 18), grew up performing Peanutcracker as children and later were taken into the SNB trainee program; then worked their way up though the apprentice program and this year were raised to be SNB first year company members.

Todd especially enjoys meeting the children in the audience and getting fan letters letting him know that he has inspired some younger children to want to take ballet. He shares that “Ballet has so much to offer young people growing up, especially in the SNB trainee and apprentice programs. I have learned how to take constructive criticism and apply it and become better. I have also learned that each person (no matter what level) is important, valued and respected as part of the production.”

Clara shares: “I like seeing the enthusiastic children in the cast at the different levels and remembering when I was just like them. I also like working toward a higher and higher goal. There is always someone better, and that gives you something to strive for. It makes me realize that I will always be working toward something, and that is fun. There is no end point, and I know that I can always improve.”

The SNB company is made up of a number of dancers in their 20s.

Malik Berry came to SNB for the first time this year from the Dance Theatre of Harlem, dancing the roles of the Snow King and Russian Prince.

“I find it inspiring to watch the younger children in the cast work so hard because it reminds me that it is always important, as one improves, to go back to the beginning to learn more. Ballet gives you a work ethic that is so important in all aspects of life. Through ballet I have learned more than just technique. I have learned patience, tenacity, endurance, self discipline and determination.”

Chloe Felesina dances with both SNB and BalletX in Philadelphia. Chloe danced the roles of the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy in Peanutcracker. “Dancing for Sierra Nevada Ballet in the Peanutcracker is a profound highlight of my year. I get to see unique things, like 4-year-olds going over choreography in their spare time; 12-year-olds analyzing subtleties of their placement and dancers at all levels putting personality and great acting into their rolls. I see people treating each other in a manner that says ‘I absolutely respect you and what you offer; let’s become better together.’ I see a reverence for ballet, expression, and art that is in high contrast to the continual irreverence of our society.”

Chloe goes on to say: “After the show, still in costume, we greet the audience in the lobby. Their eyes are filled with wonder and magic. I know that lots of youngsters begin a life-long love of dance because of the Peanutcracker. The delightful choreography and captivating narration make for a perfect introduction to watching concert dance, as well as an anticipated yearly tradition. Working for SNB is a privilege that has made a tremendous impact on my life, and I’m very grateful for it.”

After almost 50 years of celebrating the holidays with this Tchaikovsky ballet and sharing the experience with thousands of young people and professional dancers on and off stage, I am always grateful for the opportunity and find it the perfect way to celebrate life and the spirit of good will toward one and all.

-- Reno Gazette-Journal