NYCB’s ‘The Nutcracker’ lead role goes to black ballerina for first time ever


There’s nothing like sitting in a twinkly-lit theater and watching a performance of The Nutcracker to get you in the festive mood.

The beloved ballet has become synonymous with Christmas, after it was first staged in North America in the 1950s.

It seems we can’t get enough of this fantastical tale of a nutcracker soldier, gingerbread men, the sugarplum fairy and of course the ever-growing Christmas tree.

New York City ballet has been staging the show since 1954 and for the first time this year the lead role of Marie will be played by a black ballerina.

11-year-old Charlotte Nebres, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad and father’s is from the Philippines and is a student at the School of American Ballet (SAB) has been selected for the star part.

Charlotte will play the young heroine of “The Nutcracker,” originally choreographed by George Blanchine, who danced the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker in 1919 in Russia and after moving to America founded New York City Ballet where he developed his own version.

Charlotte’s proud mom described the moment she finished her audition and announced the news to her.

“With that poker face of hers, she said, ‘Well, I’m Marie,’ And I just thought, oh my goodness — they really did it. I couldn’t believe it,” her mother told the New York Times.

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IN THE NEWS // The four @sab_nyc children who alternate the roles of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince were recently profiled in The New York Times by Gia Kourlas. She sat down with them to discuss the rehearsal process, their lives off-stage, and their roles in the ballet.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ When asked who the Nutcracker Prince is to him, 11-year-old Kai Misra-Stone (pictured at top right) said, “The Prince is this character that develops. In the beginning, he is Drosselmeier’s nephew and then it’s almost as if he transforms into the Nutcracker and then goes back to being the Prince. He comes out of his shell and just opens up and is like: Here I am.”⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Thirteen-year-old Tanner Quirk (pictured in the foreground), is the oldest of the four, and has also previously played Marie’s bratty brother Fritz in the production. To him, the Nutcracker Prince “is very brave and compassionate especially toward his Marie, which is what I aspire to be like in real life, too.”⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Photo: Heather Sten @heathersten for The New York Times @nytimes⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ See these very young dancers who are the heart of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, now on stage through JAN 5. Tap the link in bio for tickets and more information.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #nutcracker #nycbnutcracker #thenutcracker #nutcrackerballet #holidayseason #georgebalanchinesthenutcracker #ballet #dance #boysdancetoo #balletdancer #dancelife #balletlife #instaballet #dancers #choreography #balanchine #nycb #nycballet #newyorkcityballet #newyorkcity #linkinbio #schoolofamericanballet

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Meanwhile, Charlotte has mixed feelings: both amazed at being cast in the lead role but adding: “Wow. That seems a little late.”

Charlotte’s mom said her daughter’s role gave her “chills” but is also hesitant when it comes to celebrating, “It’s tough because we have past hurts, past injuries and disappointments,” she said.

‘Fresh perspective’

“You don’t necessarily want to color their worldview that way. You want them to approach it with their fresh perspective,” she said.

Charlotte hopes her part will inspire other young people of color to want to start ballet.

“It’s pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B., but also representing all of our cultures,” she told the New York Times. “There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, hey, I can do that, too.”

With a talent and maturity like Charlotte’s she is bound to go far and inspire so many other children of color along the way.

Please share this story to celebrate Charlotte’s achievements.


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