By: Emily Schablik
“I can’t. I have dance,” is a phrase that I have repeated an endless amount of times throughout highschool. But, what is it that I really do? Why am I always at ballet? I have committed countless hours of my life to this artform since the young age of 2. My dream along with every young ballerina’s dream was to always become “Clara” in “The Nutcracker.” Although I have accomplished this dream of mine, my journey to becoming Clara was not easy. This is my story…
How It All Began
Ever since I could remember, all I’ve wanted to do was dance. My early years consisted of me putting on dance productions to ABBA and The Beatles for my family in front of our camcorder. My mom saw my passion for dance and decided that she must get me into a dance class. She contacted countless amounts of dance studios before finding one that would allow me to come considering the fact that I was nearly two. Although I was the youngest dancer in class and was wearing Pull-Ups, my mom still claims that I was the best one there.
A New Beginning
At the age of 8, I became a student at the New Jersey School of Ballet. NJBallet School is a pre-professional division school that is part of the professional NJBallet Company. This ballet school was much more serious than the local dance studio that I had previously been dancing at. One of my teachers noticed my natural ability, and quickly took me as her prodigy. After finding out about NJBallet’s famous Nutcracker production, I realized that my dream of becoming Clara might actually be able to become a reality! My first role in “The Nutcracker” was Baby Clown because I was the shortest girl in my class. I remember watching Clara in awe and couldn’t help but wish to be her. I promised myself that I would one day get to be her.
I was able to wear my first pair of pointe shoes when I was just 9 years old. This made me begin to feel like a real ballerina. This was the age where I really started to push myself every day to get better. I started to take private lessons with the goal of improving my technique more quickly. I made sure to show up to every class early and prepared with my hair neatly pinned back in a bun and wearing a uniformed leotard.
While my school friends were at summer camps and the town pool in the summer, I was in the ballet studio. Yet, this did not bother me because there was no place that I would rather be. I was 12 years old when I attended my first Summer Intensive program in NYC. My first Intensive was with the French Academie of Ballet. I would take the bus into the city Monday-Friday in the summer and attend ballet classes. Each summer since then, I have continued attending Summer Intensive programs such as The Bolshoi Ballet Summer Intensive, Manhattan Youth, and Fabrice Hearrult’s Summer Intensive.
Coveting the Role
I was first called to the Clara audition in 2017. Sadly, no dancer in my level was given the role. However, the next year in 2018, I auditioned for the role and was given it! I was ecstatic and cried with tears of joy upon receiving the news! I was told that I would be an understudy for that year. I attended every Clara rehearsal and strengthened my ability to execute each specific movement. Learning how to become the innocent little girl that Clara is portrayed as was very challenging to embody. Once understanding the character development and acting part of becoming Clara, I fell in love with the role even more.
The following year in 2019, I was given the opportunity to finally perform as Clara! I will never forget the applause I received after my first performance as Clara. The adrenaline rush was unlike any other. Unfortunately, 2020’s Nutcracker was virtual due to COVID. This year’s Nutcracker (2021), was my last Nutcracker season. I tried my absolute best to try and soak in every moment of it. My last Clara performance was on December 26th. It was a huge milestone for me! However, this is not where my journey ends. I recently committed to Sacred Heart University as a member of their Dance Company! I am beyond excited to carry my dance career even further. If I have learned anything from this experience it is that dreams really do come true if you put in the work, time, and effort.