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Hard work, dedication build the beauty that is 'The Nutcracker'

By by j.r. ortega/jrortega@vicad.com
Dec. 5, 2012 at 6:05 a.m.

Ainsley Tharp

Madison Elder

How long have you been in "The Nutcracker"?

"This will be my eighth year. I've been doing it since I was three years old. I've had different roles over the years. This year, I'm Marzipan lead, but I've been in Waltz of the Snowflakes and I've also been lead for the Waltz of the Snowflakes."

What is the hardest part about putting on "The Nutcracker?"

"It's definitely different every year. There is a level of difficulty for each one. The hardest thing is partnering and keeping your momentum going. The whole point of ballet is doing all this complicated stuff and making it look easy."

What will you miss most about preparing and putting on the show?

"Definitely the performances, both the school shows and the public performances. I love when people say, 'congratulations.' I think next year will be difficult. My whole Christmas goes around 'The Nutcracker' and getting focused for performance week. I'll miss the emotional contact and the dancing, of course."

What are your plans after all this is over, and what do you think this has taught you?

"I plan to go to Texas A&M, but I'm not sure about dancing in the future. I haven't really looked into it yet. I definitely want to study business and makeup and cosmetology. I will also keep that dance influence."

Ainsley Tharp

How long have you been in "The Nutcracker"?

"This will be my 14th year. I started when I was three years old as a cherub. I've made my way up the chain."

What is the hardest part about putting on "The Nutcracker?"

"Truthfully, I don't know if there is a hardest part. It's pure excitement. This year, as dew drop fairy, has been my most challenging role. I have worked more on dew drop fairy than any other role. I had to workout a lot to make it work and look effortless so it could be performed as it has every year."

What will you miss most about preparing and putting on the show?

"I've been doing this for 14 years and my time has passed. Christmas won't be the same without 'The Nutcracker,' but I know that it will still be there. When I'm able to come down next year, I'll be able to watch it instead of performing it. I'll miss being with all those people who helped make 'The Nutcracker' what it is."

What are your plans after all this is over, and what do you think this has taught you?

"I plan to continue dancing in college. I believe my education in the arts isn't finished. I feel like dance is an art form that inspires perfection. That is why it's so beautiful and so relatable to humanity. It can never be perfect."

Kathryn McCoy

How long have you been in "The Nutcracker"?

"I've been doing it for nine years. The two biggest roles I've had were the lead Chinese and last year as the columbine doll."

What is the hardest part about putting on "The Nutcracker?"

"Snow corps is the hardest. Just keeping the stamina through the whole dance with everyone around you is hard and pushing through to finish the dance."

What will you miss most about preparing and putting on the show?

"I probably miss performing the most. There are so many long weekend rehearsals and 'The Nutcracker' is a huge part of preparing for the Christmas season."

What are your plans after all this is over, and what do you think this has taught you?

"I'll carry on the performance experience and the ability to be able to present myself in certain situations. Performing on stage prepares you for life, interviews and different situations. It's not just dance. I plan to to go TCU or UT and major in marketing and public relations with a minor in music and voice."

Ashley Fajkus

How long have you been in "The Nutcracker"?

"I've been in 'The Nutcracker' since the fourth grade, so nine years. I've been dancing since I was two. My first year, I was a cloud. I was Clara last year. And this year, I'm Snow Queen."

What is the hardest part about putting on "The Nutcracker?"

"We have auditions in the beginning of August. We start Friday and Saturday rehearsals on top of our normal classes. It's like football. We're in point shoes for hours. It's excruciating. I have to think of the final product. I've had knee injuries and foot problems, but you've got to work through it."

What will you miss most about preparing and putting on the show?

"I think it's just going to be straight up being in the studio. That's where you can go and let it all out. That's a comfort zone and a safe place you have. It's home. Those are your brothers and sisters. It's routine."

What are your plans after all this is over, and what do you think this has taught you?

"I'm going to Texas A&M College Station and majoring in special education with emphasis on autism. I can't just stop dance. I've been dancing for so long. I can't stop it. I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I will always have it with me - the discipline, the respect and being able to work with big and small groups of people. The time management. Everything that dance has helped me out with, I will be able to take to college."

IF YOU GO

•  WHAT: Victoria Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker"

•  WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

• WHERE: Leo J. Welder Center, 214 N. Main St.

• COST: Thursday $20; Friday, Saturday and Sunday $30 at door; $25 pre-sale

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call Victoria Ballet Theatre at 361-575-2313 or the Welder Center at 361-576-6277.

Plie. Chasse. Pirouette. And rest.

When all the ballerinas enter stage left in their festive, frou-frou attire, smiles stretched across their faces for Victoria Ballet's "The Nutcracker" on Thursday, one thing should be noted - this effortless performance comes at a high cost of pain, tears and dedication.

Months and hours of practice comes at a cost. Tales of progressing foot and knee injuries, broken nails and utter exhaustion are not uncommon in the world of ballet.

For every ballerina, there is a different challenge. For some, the challenge is physical, for others - emotional.

There is a dark side to "The Nutcracker." A dark side these ballerinas make magically bright when they hit the stage and Tchaikovsky blares overhead. The ballet is a process, but more importantly, it's a way of life.

Four ballerinas perhaps know this better than anyone else. Ashley Fajkus, Ainsley Tharp, Kathryn McCoy and Madison Elder, all high school seniors, are completing their final year of "The Nutcracker."

The four don't know a Christmas without the ballet, but can speak volumes of the work that goes into the production.

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