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  • Layla Rethy

The Student Nutcracker Experience

Students in "The Nutcracker" / Credits: Vivien Dobrescu

When string lights illuminate buildings and the National Christmas tree goes up, Washingtonians know the holidays are here. For many D.C. residents, the holidays would not be complete without viewing the Washington Ballet’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker.”

In most productions of “The Nutcracker,” students make up most of the cast, playing various roles from soldiers to clowns. The Washington Ballet's production of “The Nutcracker” features a few Walls students as umbrella girls, including freshman Carmen Couts and junior Vivien Dobrescu.

“Being in ‘The Nutcracker’ is one of the biggest opportunities a dancer in high school can have,” Dobrescu said, “and I always learn a lot, make new friends, and have a great time.”

Students in the Nutcracker can be as young as 5 to 6 years old, so students who stick with it until high school have played a number of roles through the years, including party guests, soldiers, and clowns. Couts said being an angel was her favorite role. “I saw the older girls en pointe during the snow scene,” she recalled, “and I was sitting down watching the snow fall on their shoes.”

Dobrescu remembered, “I loved being a party girl when I was 10 because I got to wear a pretty yellow dress and I was obsessed.”

There are only so many hours in the day, and it can be difficult to balance dancing in a professional production and managing school. “Rehearsals are mainly on the weekends, which is usually when I do most of my homework,” Dobrescu said. “At times when dance and rehearsals take up a lot of time on my weekends, I’m usually scrambling to finish my homework.”

Still, the students believe that the commitment is worth it. Couts explained, “I love how much fun I have performing in ‘The Nutcracker’ with my friends. ‘The Nutcracker’ allows me to have good performing experience and improves my stage presence.”

Dobrescu agreed, “I think it is a good experience because I’ve learned a lot.”

She said that after many years of being on stage, she’s built the confidence to perform in front of a crowd and learned how to use stage presence to convey a unique artistic style.

“It’s also really fun to invite your friends to your performances once December rolls around,” she added.

Dobrescu concluded, “While it can be tough sometimes when school coincides with constant rehearsals and performances, ‘The Nutcracker’ is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and it’s an amazing experience every year.”

There is something for everyone to enjoy when it comes to ‘The Nutcracker,’ whether you're a student performer or simply love the tradition. Yes, a sacrifice must be made, but Couts and Dobrescu agree it’s worth it.


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