A holiday at the ballet

A 14-year-old Destrehan teen fulfills center-stage dream in River Region Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

For nearly 50 years, “The Nutcracker” has been a staple of American holiday performances. Young ballet dancers across the nation dream of playing the role of Clara, the young girl who absconds on a midnight journey with a Nutcracker toy that has come to life. This fall, 14-year-old Destrehan dancer Lianne Keller will live that dream.

“At a certain age, I can’t remember when, [Lianne] focused on being Clara,” said Susan Ferrera, Keller’s long-time ballet instructor and artistic director for the River Region Ballet.

Ferrera, who has been instructing Keller since the girl was 6 years old, said that the Destrehan freshman is a hard working student and an “excellent technician.”

“As a 14-year-old, she has a lot of room to grow in the artistry and performance areas,” Ferrera said.

Though her first appearance as Clara, this is not Keller’s first time on the stage with the performance of “The Nutcracker.” For the last three years, she has played a mouse lieutenant,  soldier and more as a member of the River Region Ballet Junior Company. In addition, Keller has also performed in River Region productions of “Thumbelina,” “The Fairy Garden,” and “Peter and the Wolf.”

“Dancing Clara is a challenge and a dream,” Keller said. “That’s what makes it so exciting.”

Ferrara said that selection of Clara is primarily based on a series of scores. The owner of Images Dance Studio said that she is proud to be in charge of a number of dancers with the ability to dance as Clara, but said that the decision can be a tough one.

“Only a few can attain it, because you can only pick one,” Ferrara said.

Though the ballet’s debut was not originally received well in 1892, the score – written by Tchaikovsky, famous for such works as the 1812 Overture – was an instant classic. A distinctly American love for the show ballet was cultivated after a 1954 performance by the New York Ballet. By the 1960s, annual productions of “The Nutcracker” were occurring all across the U.S. and on television.

As part of its 20th season, the River Region Ballet will perform “The Nutcracker.” Held at the Destrehan High School auditorium, the performance will include appearances from guest dancers Brianna Hagar and Ramon Gaitan. All told, more than 75 performers are used to pull off the classic holiday ballet on Dec. 6 and 7, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the full performances, the River Region Ballet will host a children’s matinee version of the ballet on Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. The one-hour performance will be followed by a “Sugar Plum Party” where young audience members can interact with their characters on the stage.


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