Breaking Barriers at Only 11 Years Old is Charlotte Nebres, New York City Ballet’s First Female Black Lead

George Blanchard’s The Nutcracker has been a cherished holiday tradition since it started in 1954. For the first time since The Nutcracker’s premiere, a black dancer has been cast in the lead role of Marie. Charlotte Nebres is the star in the New York City Ballet’s production of the show. This is a huge milestone for ballet dance and the African American community.

Nebres has said to the New York Times “It’s pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B [the School of American Ballet] but also representing all of our cultures. There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, ‘Hey, I can do that, too.’”

Dena Abergel was in charge of the casting decision. She acknowledges that she wasn’t cast simply because she was African American or as a diversity initiative. When it came to casting this season, Abergel said that the role of Marie could only be filled by “someone primarily who has an ability to act on stage and to convey a story… It has to be someone who can command the stage and who has enough confidence and spontaneity to handle whatever comes her way."

Courtesy: Heather Sten 

This cultural shift comes four years after Misty Copeland became the first female African American principal at the American Ballet Theatre. "I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful," Nebres told The New York Times. "When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, 'That’s amazing.' She was representing me and all the people like me."

The cast has also become particularly diverse. The other young leads in the ballet are Tanner Quirk, who is half-Chinese, plays the prince, Sophia Thomopolous, who is half-Korean and half-Greek, was double-cast as Marie and Kai Misra-Stone, who is half-South Asian, was double cast as the prince.

The school of American Ballet’s (S.A.B) 75-year history is changing. This is greatly reflected in the makeup of its enrolled students. During the past seven years, 62 of their students have become City ballet apprentices. Of these apprentices, four of them are women, 12 refer to themselves as black and 21 identify as nonwhite or mixed.

S.A.B’s efforts to diversify its student body has directly impacted casting. Abergel said in an interview, "Because I have the diversity of students and the pool to choose from that is diverse, some of those students will end up being the leads and it just happened to work out without my even realizing it that all four were of some mixed diversity. And that's just mirroring what's happening in New York City and around the world."

Courtesy: Our Weekly

Young black ballerina, Charlotte Nebres, will dance as Marie in the Nutcracker through Jan. 5. She told the New York Times “It just feels like when I dance, I feel free and I feel empowered. I feel like I can do anything when I dance. It makes me happy, and I’m going to do what makes me happy.”

History has been made this holiday season. Ballet is immensely popular and the New York City Ballet’s production adds an unforgettable spark of joy to this festive tradition.

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