I walked into the Paine ballroom at age eight for the first time, adorned red cheeks to match the red of my solider coat. My first year of Nutcracker in the Castle was filled with marching steps and learning to sit still while the “big girls” filled the room with their dances. I sat in awe, imagining that one day I’d wear the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu, hold the Spanish dancer’s fan, hypnotizing my audience as the Arabian dancer. I learned patience sitting between tours and learning the different dances. I grew into the Harlequin’s bouncing pigtails, the Chinese dancer’s jingling chop sticks, the Marzipan's sugared skirt. I learned how many homework problems I could complete between tours, how many stitches I could knit, how many Christmas thank you cards could be written, and how many crackers I could eat. I also found the stamina to dance my heart out for each audience. I grew into the Russian dancer's swirling skirts, the Doll’s puffed sleeves, and learned that much can be said through a simple smile to a bright eyed little girl. I also learned that sometimes the smallest audiences are the most engaged. Now age 18, I wear the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu, hold the Spanish dancer’s fan, and try my best to hypnotize my audience as the Arabian dancer. Just like the last ten years, I know that this year’s winter weekends will be spent in the beautiful ballroom I have spent so many happy hours in. I look forward to my last year and will carry the lessons I have learned through Nutcracker in the Castle with me for the rest of my life.
Gabrielle Muller, Age 19
Valley Academy for the Arts Graduate