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The clock strikes 2:30 p.m. and students eagerly rush out of classrooms at the sound of the bell. Most students head straight home, looking forward to relaxing after a tough day of school and starting homework. Sophomore Victoria Chai heads straight to dance, arriving as early as 3 p.m. for daily rehearsals and classes.
Chai has been rehearsing the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker since September. “I was casted as Sugarplum by the directors, and it was a really nice surprise,” Chai said. “I love The Nutcracker because it’s such a festive performance, but it’s also a lot of work and super stressful.”
The Sugarplum Fairy is normally a role reserved for hired professionals to step in and perform, which means that weekly rehearsals are necessary in order to perform the three parts of the difficult piece; the variation (solo), the pas de deux (duet with the prince), and the coda (finale). “I have Nutcracker rehearsals all day on Saturday and on Friday nights,” Chai said.
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s version of The Nutcracker follows the adventures of Clara, performed by Clarksburg freshman Katie Grow and Lakelands Park eighth grader Anna Claire Edgard. The show first starts with Clara and her family hosting a party where all the guests dance together and exchange presents until the sun goes down. Afterward, she falls asleep with her nutcracker and is whisked through the land of snow and the land of sweets. “Being Clara is both stressful and fun,” Grow said. “My favorite part I’m in is the party scene because the set and costumes are so beautiful.”
Sophomore Merril Heitz has been performing in The Nutcracker since 2015. “My favorite parts are the snow scene and the waltz of the flowers because I get to dance with my friends,” Heitz said. “The audience is always excited to watch flowers and the music is just so iconic, which is another reason why its one of my favorites.”
Even with one weekend of shows completed, Chai won’t be able to catch a break just yet. “I’m also competing in Youth America Grand Prix, or YAGP, which is a nation-wide dance competition. Last year, I attended the regional competition in Philadelphia, and I met and learned from a lot of different people from different states,” Chai said. “The competition also gave me the opportunity to attend master classes with some of the best teachers, and overall it was a very inspiring experience.”
YAGP has two divisions: classical and contemporary, which Chai placed top 12 in last year. This year, she is performing the variation Dulcinea from the ballet Don Quixote and helped choreograph her contemporary piece. “My director, Mrs. Liz, coached me for my variation and let me add some of my own choreography to the contemporary piece I’m performing this year,” Chai said.
There were shows on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 at 1 and 5 p.m., as well as a shortened version on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m., all performed at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College.