date published: November 21, 2005

Andria Ronne's eyes light up as she remembers the moment in which she was first assigned the lead children's role in the 2005 production of Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker . She had come to the early morning callback hoping to merely reclaim the role she danced the year before, that of a guest in the holiday party scene in Act 1. Little did she know that in only her second year of auditioning for the annual ballet-which has become a beloved harbinger of Christmastime in Boston-she should have been aiming her sights a little higher.

"When I went to the second audition, they were calling everybody else's number and they weren't calling mine," Ronne says, recalling the anxiety with which she watched her leotard-clad peers get assigned their positions on the dance floor. At that point, Ronne was worried she may be out of a part altogether. "I was like, oh no, what's happening?" Then, at last, she was finally ushered to her spot next to the boy who would be dancing the part of Fritz-a spot that, she realized with shock and delight, was for Clara. 

Considering her relatively short tenure at the Boston Ballet School, getting the lead in The Nutcracker caught the 14-year-old dancer by surprise. "I wasn't expecting it at all," Ronne says. In only her second year dancing in the company's holiday production, the accomplishment is, in her words, "pretty amazing." As Clara, Ronne portrays a young girl whose Christmas Eve flight of fancy takes her on a spellbound journey to a land of dancing snowflakes and candy palaces. She shares the role with ballet student Elizabeth Powell and company dancers Heather Waymack and Misa Kuranaga, alleviating the burden of more than 36 performances that require her to be on stage for most of their duration.

A dancer since the tender age of three, Ronne already has the unmistakable physique of a ballerina, with upright shoulders, long legs and a lean build. "It was something that always came naturally," she says, a comment that belies her daily intensive after-school classes and optional weekend classes that have her dancing 15-20 hours a week-not including Nutcracker rehearsals. Despite this strenuous regimen, Ronne relishes the feeling of being truly in her element and says if she could, she would skip school and dance even more. "I really like all aspects of dancing," she says. "It's expressive and it incorporates a lot of different things, like acting. It's really cool."

Of course, dedicating hours upon hours to rehearsing can get tedious, even to someone whose bare necessities are "eating, sleeping and ballet." Yet for Ronne, the extensive, repetitive sessions spent meticulously perfecting each arabesque all prove worth it on stage, where they metamorphose into one solid performance. "When you say ballet," she says, "you think of the stage and the people and the dancing. It's like performing for people. It's like you're giving to them. And it's so much fun."

Embodying the role of Clara for the first time is no small feat, even for a talented dancer like Ronne. The choreography requires her to be lifted up by a male partner-a skill most student dancers don't learn until they are much older. And though she has had some partnering instruction in the past, nothing could prepare her for the exhilaration Ronne felt at one of the first Nutcracker rehearsals when a company dancer cast as puppeteer Drosselmeyer-the character who initiates Clara's journey by bewitching her toy nutcracker to life-hoisted her up into the air. "[Dancing] with a partner is like a ring," Ronne says of the importance of trusting her fellow dancer. "The girl [dancer] is the gemstone, and the boy is the band that supports her-one wouldn't work without the other."

Mikko Nissinen
The flowers have been waltzing through Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker for 38 consecutive years, but artistic director Mikko Nissinen (pictured above) makes sure that each production of the 112-year-old ballet is full of surprises-and this year is no different. After last year's stint at the much smaller Colonial Theatre, The Nutcracker makes its new home this year at The Opera House, where the ballet is able to revert to its original set created for the Wang Theatre, its home for 36 years. Some of this year's enhancements include brand new lighting design, enhanced choreography, and additions to the set. "[The Nutcracker] is a timeless, magical experience," says Nissinen. "My goal is to improve and do something new each year without losing its classic appeal."
Because she's been so absorbed in dancing The Nutcracker , Ronne has never actually seen the show performed. "Last year, everyone came to see me, so I never got to go," she explains. But being on stage amid the surreal charm of the scenery, music and costumes, along with the gratification of bringing a timeless fairytale to life is enough to charm any young danseuse. "Dancing with everybody else and being able to get in your character is just amazing," Ronne says. She's especially mesmerized by the festive aura of the opening scene-the Silberhaus Christmas party. "I love the party girl dress," she says, admiring the ornate costume she wears in Scene 1. "You have the little bloomer things, the petticoat, and you have a bonnet and little curls. It's a lot of fun."

Despite the enchating illusion, being backstage at a Boston Ballet production has shown the young dancer the reality that none of it happens magically. Behind the sparkling scenery and colorful costumes are a lot of organization and hard work, and Ronne's experience with Boston Ballet is educating her on what it means to be a serious performer. "Getting into the party dress [before the show] is all orderly and nice," she says, "But then I have to do a wing change where I basically just stand there while everyone dresses me, because I have a quick change into my nightgown."

Costume changes and backstage hustle are small concerns to Ronne compared to the more stressful issue of stage fright. "Before I go on, I forget everything-I even forget how to get on stage," she says. "I have to turn to the person next to me and ask where I'm supposed to be and how I'm supposed to get there. But then once the music starts, it all comes back to me."

When Ronne's not perfecting her pirouettes, she's playing the trombone-an instrument whose "solid sound" she loves-or spending time with her friends, all while maintaining straight A's at her school in Duxbury. By focusing on school and making college plans, Ronne keeps her options open. But each time she puts on her pointe shoes, she furtively pursues her real fantasy-a fantasy that her success at The Nutcracker auditions transformed into an ambition. "Here [at Boston Ballet], it's really serious. They talk about careers and stuff like that," Ronne says. "I would love to be part of a [ballet] company. Any company." For now, she's Clara, the girl with an enchanted dream-a dream that some day, she'll grow up to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.

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