SHERIDAN — Local dancers have been spending extra time in the studio perfecting routines to fill roles in the San Diego Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
This is the second year The San Diego Ballet has brought the show to Sheridan and local talent from Pieknik’s School of Dance and Donna’s Dance Academy have had the opportunity to share the stage with the professionals.
Donna’s Dance Academy owner and director Donna Grant said the company sent a ballet mistress to conduct auditions Sept. 10. Between the two studios, around 75 students will perform this year, filling roles such as party girls, senior soldiers, junior soldiers, junior rats, ginger snaps and garland girls.
The company sends the studios a rehearsal schedule, which outlines how much time each part needs to rehearse. The teachers are also given a video and are left on their own to decipher each part and teach it to their students.
Certain scenes are harder to teach, such as the party scene, which includes seven girls, six boys and the character Fritz.
“They all have different parts throughout the whole entire scene,” Grant said. “So to watch the video and decipher all the 14 parts is quite involved.”
The performance isn’t only a lot of work for the teachers, but also requires extra rehearsal time for students.
Carlee McDougall, 13, Victoria Smith, 12, and Claire Justus, 13, are all looking forward to their second performances with the company.
McDougall, who is an understudy for a snowflake as well as a garland girl, said her rehearsal schedule is long; Mondays she’s in the studio from 3:30-8 p.m., where she also helps with others in the show.
On Tuesdays she’s in the studio from 8:30-9:30 p.m.
Justus will play two parts — senior soldier and a lady in waiting. She said they just increased her rehearsal time because one dance is very fast and complicated.
Smith will play the role of Fritz, who breaks the Nutcracker after his sister Clara shows interest in the gift. Smith said she’s looking forward to playing the mischievous character and has even been working on a devious face that she hopes will make the audience laugh.
“I really wanted to be Fritz because it was a really fun part,” Smith said. “You basically just get to torture Clara and be really funny, so I’m really excited.”
Pieknik’s School of Dance owner and director Christina Davey said on average performers have one to two rehearsals a week before the performance, and will begin having four-hour Saturday rehearsals until the show.
That’s because the performers must perfect their roles before the company arrives in town.
“We want to make sure that they’ve got it down early because when they do get on that stage with the company there’s a lot of scenery and the professional dancers, they don’t look sideways when they’re dancing,” Davey said. “If there’s a child in their way, it’s a possibility for a catastrophe, actually.”
Local performers will have two rehearsals with dancers from The San Diego Ballet before the performance.
While the show takes dedication from the young performers who must juggle other responsibilities like school and social lives, they’re enjoying the ride and looking forward to opening night.
For McDougall, it’s the chance to perform with a professional dance company. For Justus, it’s the applause at curtain call, and for Smith it’s a story she can pass down to future generations.
“That’s the part of living an awesome life, hashtag ballet,” Smith said. “Because companies come if you live in the right town and you get to dance with them and you have some awesome memories.”