Dancers balance school, ballet

Ballerinas to perform “The Nutcracker” next week.


Jemima Scott

Freshman Wellsley Cohen dances en pointe with fellow ballerinas in the City Ballet Company in preparation for an upcoming performance of the iconic ballet “the Nutcracker.” Both Cohen and junior Grace Lachman have been dancing for the company for years and are set to perform in the ballet at the Palace of Fine Arts in a week.

India Thieriot, Assistant Copy Editor

Two dancers hoping to do justice to a 123-year-old ballet will take the stage as an Arabian lead and a Spanish dancer next week at the Palace of Fine Arts.

Famous for its score composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, “The Nutcracker” is performed by nearly every ballet company in the City during the holidays, including the City Ballet Company, for which junior Grace Lachman and freshman Wellsley Cohen have been dancing since shortly after they started walking.

“This is my 10th Nutcracker,” Cohen, who has been dancing at the City Ballet school since she was three, said.

Ballet is a time-consuming commitment, sometimes exceeding 20 hours of practice a week.

“A lot of the time most students sort of refresh over the weekend and get ahead on their homework, but for me the weekends are just as busy as my weekdays,” Lachman said.

Despite demands on their time, both Lachman and Cohen agree limited free-time is beneficial in completing homework.

“I find that I have much better time management because I know that I have a very small slot of time to get things done so I can’t procrastinate,” Cohen said. “Whenever I’m stretching out if I’m going into the splits or something, I’ll study for a bio exam.”

In addition to learning how to manage time, ballet dancers also develop a focused work ethic, according to Patsel.

“I can guarantee that the ballet cross-pollinates into academics just because of the discipline that it requires,” Patsel said. “Generally our kids are incredible students.”

Dancing in the “The Nutcracker” is a rite of passage for ballerinas as they move up dance levels and take on more complex roles.

“The girl who’s dancing our sugar plum this year started as an angel and a buffoon,” Patsel said. “It’s sort of a checkpoint each year. As you move up a level, the complexity of the piece that they’re dancing that particular year becomes more difficult.”

“The Nutcracker” is the most anticipated show for many of the dancers in that everyone is challenged to showcase not only her dance, but also acting skills.

“I always like the anticipation of the cast list coming out, and I like how it’s definitely a storybook ballet in that there’s a lot of acting involved,” Cohen said. “It’s not just emotionless.”

Because the City Ballet School has been producing nearly the same performance every year since its founding in 2003, it is important that dancers bring their own personality to make the show more versatile, according to Patsel.

“It changes and evolves depending on the dancers,” Ken Patsel, Administrative Director of the City Ballet School, said. “Each year is slightly evolved into what we have today.”

While many athletes showcase their work at games and tournaments, “The Nutcracker” acts as a grand debut of the hard work put into rehearsals for dancers, according to Lachman.

“Often, I feel like ballet is stereotyped as this prissy, easy thing,” Lachman said. “Really it’s just as rigorous, if not more rigorous than school sports, and the dedication that dancers in general have to ballet should be recognized.”

Tickets for “The Nutcracker” are $40 in advance by calling the City Box Office at 415-392-4400 and $45 at the door at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 12, and 2 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Palace of Fine Arts.