For as long as I can remember, I have either watched or performed in the Nutcracker. Going to see the Nutcracker was the first memory that I have of seeing a live performance. Most kids would have either cried, squealed or simply fallen asleep, but not me.

I was mesmerized from the moment the curtain rose until the final bow. Thus beginning an obsession that continues to this day. The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet set to a score by Tchaikovsky and was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in Imperial Russia during the late nineteenth-century. Since then, the Nutcracker has become a holiday staple. Even if you have never seen the ballet, you will probably be familiar with the score, as it has been permeated into American pop culture.

For the past three years, I have had the privilege to perform in Alabama Youth Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker. I have performed almost every role for high school students since. I have been a snowflake, flower, shepherdess, Spanish dancer and Orchid Queen. Each part I have performed has made me a stronger, smarter and all around better dancer.

This year, I am closing a chapter in my own Nutcracker story. I will be performing in my last Nutcracker with Alabama Youth Ballet. It’s bittersweet. To say goodbye to such a large part of my life for the past four years feels like saying goodbye to the final chapter in my childhood.

Almost nothing else has contributed to the person I am today than those long Saturday rehearsals. They taught me patience, teamwork and work ethic. I have learned that there are no stronger bonds than those formed from sharing the stage. While it may not seem so, ballet is a team sport. It’s impossible to succeed in ballet without working well with others. I, like most dancers, have spent more time practicing to be a snowflake than a soloist.

This year, I get to fulfill a lifetime goal of performing in the lead role as the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is quite literally the moment that I have been training for.  I have been working towards this goal whether consciously or not since the first time I went to a ballet class.

To say that it’s a daunting task would be an understatement. But, I have worked really hard for this moment and I know that I have the support I need from my directors and peers. I am so excited to perform this role. I am ready.

Alabama Youth Ballet Theatre’s production of the Nutcracker will run from Dec. 20-22 at Lee High School in Huntsville. I will be performing as Sugar Plum at the Friday evening and matinee shows. For more information about the Nutcracker, visit www.aybtheatre.org.

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