Three Claras and one Nutcracker
Since the Olney Ballet Theater (OBT) began performing Mary Day version of The Nutcracker in Olney, several hundred dancers have performed major roles in the holiday favorite. More than 1,000 children have appeared as everything from tiny mice to soldiers to snowflakes. This year this holiday tradition will take place once again at the Historical Theater of the Olney Theater Center in Olney, Maryland, from December 13 to December 24.
This year OBT’s production will feature three wonderful girls to perform the role of Clara: Rita Cordero, Alexandra Mao and Katherine Moyer. The Nutcracker is the coming-of-age story of a young girl; for these three young and talented dancers, starring in The Nutcracker is a special experience in their lives. Rita, Alexandra and Katherine all have different backgrounds but are united by the magic of ballet. They are students at the Berrend Dance Centre in Olney, MD. Formerly of The Washington School of Ballet, Patricia Berrend is the Centre’s Director as well as the Artistic Director for this fine production.
Young audiences love stories where another kid saves the day. Seeing Clara’s development into a courageous heroine is enormously empowering, especially to other girls. One moment, Clara’s a sweet and proper girl, curtsying and smiling; the next moment, she’s strong and determined, battling the Mouse King. The Nutcracker may be a fantasy, but Rita, Alexandra and Catherine embody Clara’s character with their sweetness and determination.
Portraying Clara is an enormous responsibility and these girls — none of them beyond middle school age — carry much of the weight of a very professional stage production. Being Clara demands talent, of course, but it also calls for discipline, focus and tenacity. These girls practice, rehearse and hone their ballet skills for almost 15 hours every week while balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities, church, friends and family.
Each of the girls who will be playing Clara this year is unique. Let’s meet each one of them:
Rita Cordero started her dance studies in Venezuela when she was not quite three years old. After seeing a ballet recital, she could not take her eyes from the dancers and that day told her parents, “Rita wants to dance.” Ballet has been her passion since a young age and she has not stopped. Today a student at Farquhar Middle School, Rita enjoys all of her subjects, especially Spanish. She dreams of becoming an interior designer and a ballet teacher one day. For Rita, being Clara is a dream come true and an honor.
Alexandra Mao started ballet at age 4. She feels that ballet is so special because “ballet looks so graceful and easy but people don't realize how much strength it takes to make everything look so graceful and easy.” Alexandra is nervous and excited to be Clara. She currently attends Rosa Parks Middle School and also studies Chinese and piano. Although she is undecided about her future profession, she states, “it will involve artistic and creative abilities.”
Catherine Moyer started dance classes at age 5. She loves to dance and feels special and very grateful to God when she dances. When Catherine was born, her feet were turned in abnormally from being crowded by her twin brother in the womb. Nonetheless, after special care and exercises her feet became normal. “This made me think that you never know what you can do until you try,” said Catherine. She is homeschooled, which allows her more time for all of her dance classes. One day she would like to become a professional dancer and a dance teacher.
For Rita, Alexandra and Catherine this is a very special time in their lives. Dancing in this production of The Nutcracker with a multitalented and multicultural cast of more than 200 people has provided the girls with a unique opportunity for learning and growth. Student dancers from Washington area ballet schools will perform with Easton Smith and Haley Henderson Smith of Ballet West (straight from their Nutcracker performances at the Kennedy Center), Puanani Brown of American Ballet Theatre, Sam Chester of Carolina Ballet Theatre and other professional guest dancers in this wonderful holiday tradition for all ages.
For tickets and more information about this excellent production visit www.olneytheatre.org or call 301.924.3400.