Artistic Director Peter Boal gives notes to Marissa Luu and PNB School students © Lindsay Thomas.
Clara is a dream role for many young ballerinas. Each year, two students alternate performing Clara in George Balanchine’s The Nutracker® . This year, Marissa Luu and Piper Begley, both twelve-year-old Level V students at our PNB School in Bellevue, will share this title role. We sat down with them to learn a little more about stepping into the spotlight of this iconic ballet.
This is your first time in this role, right? But not your first time in The Nutcracker?
Piper: No, we’ve both been doing it for four years. I was a party girl twice and once was an angel.
Marissa: I was a soldier and also I was a polichinelle twice.
How old were each of you when you started doing ballet class?
Piper: I was three, I started at a different studio, but then I gradually moved here.
Marissa: I started later than Piper – I was seven years old. My mom decided to take me to one of the ballet classes to try it out, and I immediately fell in love with it.
What did you love about it? It’s hard!
Marissa: I love a lot about it! I love how we can express every thought and feeling into movement. And you can’t really do that in any other sport or activity, which I think is really cool about dance.
Piper: And ballet is just so different from any other sport! Normal dancing is more jagged, but ballet is flowy and you get to express, like she said, so much more feeling.
How did you feel when you found out you got the role?
Piper: I was like “Oh my gosh,” and I turned around to my mom and I was like “Mom … I got Clara.” I was so excited.
Marissa: I was SO shocked when I found out, because I thought a lot of people had an amazing chance and they did really well at the audition. But, of course, I was thrilled and so happy.
What do you think it will be like when the curtain comes up and you’re Clara?
Piper: It’s so different. We’ve been in supporting roles trying to give Clara the spotlight. But to be in that spotlight and guide the show is so different. It’s really magical to be a part of that difference.
Marissa: It’s definitely a big responsibility, but I think so far we’re doing pretty well.
Piper: It helps that we’re really good friends (sometimes the Claras aren’t, they just don’t know each other). It makes it that much better!
How do you imagine dance will factor into your life going forward?
Piper: I definitely want to become an actress or a choreographer or a dancer, I still haven’t decided. I love theater, and I love the stage, I love to perform and make dances for other kids. I think it’s really cool.
Marissa: I want to be a professional ballerina when I grow up. I love being in the studio and dancing. But I also really love communicating with the audience in a special way. And I love being onstage like Pipes does.
What is the hardest part of all this for you?
Marissa: It’s definitely hard to manage school, ballet class, rehearsals, and homework. It’s a lot of hard work, but I love it so much.
Piper: It’s so worth it to be part of such an amazing production, and part of such an amazing Company. All that homework? It doesn’t matter because we get to be in this part, and to be in that spotlight is just amazing.
Marissa: It’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So many people dream of getting Clara. It’s a really big accomplishment that we get to play her in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker.