Student dances role of Mother Ginger in ‘Nutcracker’

Barbara Hootman

Eight-year-old Julia Guerry-Lewis, a Swannanoa Valley Montessori School student, is dancing the role of Mother Ginger in the production of The Asheville Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”

The “Nutcracker” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11-12 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 12-13 at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville. Tickets cost from $15-$50.

This is the third year that Julia has performed in “Nutcracker.”

“I started studying ballet at The Asheville Academy of Ballet when I was 4 years old,” she said. “I started dancing in the ‘Nutcracker’ when I was 5 years old. I was an angel the first and second years, and this year I am Mother Ginger, and am dancing in some other roles in groups. I started studying ballet so I could learn professional dancing. I am going to be a ballerina.”

The Asheville Ballet’s “Nutcracker” has been a holiday tradition for nearly a half century.

This all-time favorite story of Clara’s magical midnight trip to the Land of Sweets is classical ballet at its best. Snow will fall in the Snow Queen’s kingdom, scary rats will frighten, and good soldiers will rescue Clara.

The exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy and her handsome Cavalier will dance their eternally memorable numbers. Beautiful flowers waltz and waltz and waltz.

This year’s production by The Asheville Ballet features new choreography for rats, flowers, gingersnaps, and for Clara and her prince.

“Asheville is so fortunate to have a resident ballet company of this caliber,” said the company’s artistic director, Ann Dunn.

The Nutracker “is a perfect opportunity,” she said, “for young people to encounter professional classical dance and a wonderful, traditional story, in a real theatrical experience.”

Julia said she learns a lot by watching the more experienced dancers practice for “Nutcracker.”

“We usually spend about three hours at a time rehearsing, but not all of that time is spent dancing,” she said. “Sometimes practice is once a week and sometimes twice. It is great fun, and you get really tired because it takes a lot of energy to dance. My grandmother makes snacks, and I share them with others.”

One of Julia’s goals is to dance the lead role of Clara.

“As I get older and better at ballet, I am getting better parts,” she said. “That’s important if you are going to be a ballerina the rest of your life. It is a lot of hard work, and a lot of fun. When I first started I was a bluebird in the ‘Nutcracker,’ and I tripped and fell. I was so embarrassed, but I had to get up and go on. I’ll never do that again.”

Julia said performing in “Nutcracker” is a special event for her that she looks forward to it every year.

“I get to perform in the ballet at least twice each year, and that is important to me,” she said. “I get nervous just as a dance starts, but then I settle into it and just dance. I love being Mother Ginger with all her kids coming out from under her skirt.”