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Lead roles keep teen ballerinas on their toes

Unlike most sports seasons, the ballet season runs year-round.

While participants in many sports play one to two games a week in hopes of making a championship or finals, a dancer’s season continues all year, and “The Nutcracker” is the biggest production for most high school ballerinas.

At this time of year, dancers all across Western New York are working diligently to perfect their roles for their production of “The Nutcracker.”

Nina Gentes, 14, who attends Williamsville South High School, and Emilie Vieaux, 14, who attends Starpoint High School, have been working extra hard rehearsing lead roles for their studio’s production. Both girls attend Classical Ballet of Western New York and will perform in its production, which runs from today through Sunday at Lockport High School.

Both girls have been dancing for as long as they can remember. Nina began dancing at the age of 3. Her parents own the studio and were both professional ballet dancers themselves.

“I was pretty much born into dancing,” Nina said.

Emilie started dancing when she was 4 years old and said she was always spinning and dancing around and “everything started from there!”

This year, Emilie will be performing one of the lead roles, Clara, the girl who receives the nutcracker as a gift from her uncle and dreams of the Land of the Sweets. Nina will be performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, who is the queen of the Land of the Sweets.

Although the final production makes it seem as if the dancers are flawless and their moves are effortless, Nina and Emilie explain the strenuous steps they take in order to get to the final performance.

Nina dances every day of the week, taking a total of 11 classes, and Emilie dances approximately three hours a day, five days a week. This does not include “The Nutcracker” rehearsals, which are held on Sundays and after class, or the time they spend at home stretching and rehearsing on their own.

With all their hard work and dedication come struggles. Nina says that her biggest challenge so far has been trying to perfect the steps and make them look the best she can. Even after putting in many hours of rehearsal, Nina said she is “really nervous but so excited to be performing such a great role.”

Emilie’s struggles are different than Nina’s.

“Trying to keep all her (Clara’s) different scenes and steps straight” is the most challenging part, Emilie said. Along with the role of Clara, Emilie performs three other parts, which can add to the confusion.

Emilie also is nervous to perform, but she is very excited. She knows all her hard work and dedication will be well worth it and she will enjoy performing.

Nina and Emilie have inspirations that motivate them to continue doing what they love. Nina loves watching professional dancers and the talent they have. She especially loves the energy they bring to the stage and says it inspires her to work harder to achieve that for herself.

Emilie’s ballet teachers inspire her. They always help her when she is struggling and they encourage her to become a better dancer.

Nina and Emilie had similar advice to give other teenagers striving for a certain role or a spot on a team. They encourage teenagers to “keep trying and never give up.” Nina and Emilie agree that “hard work does pay off.” Even if you feel discouraged, you never know your potential until you put in the effort and push forward even when things get tough, they said.

Although they are only freshmen, Nina and Emilie serve as an inspiration not only to other teenagers, but to adults, as well. They continue to put in maximum effort and push themselves to their limits to get leading roles in “The Nutcracker.” They are prime examples of how great an outcome can be when you work hard and strive for excellence.

Hollie Gfroerer is a senior at Sacred Heart Academy.

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