|| The Patriot Ledger
|| November 25, 2009
|| Jody Feinberg
Despite weeks of rehearsals, Alexandra Storch remains amazed that she will dance as Clara in Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” “Sometimes I still can’t believe it,” said Alexandra, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Central Middle School in Quincy. “I didn’t think I had any chance because I just started at Boston Ballet and I dance at the lowest level to be considered for Clara.”
What’s more, Alexandra has never danced any role in “The Nutcracker.” When she auditioned with more than 300 other girls in October, she simply hoped to get cast as a party girl.
“Usually, the girls who are Clara have worked their way through the ranks, so it’s unusual that she hasn’t been in ‘The Nutcracker’ before,” said Melanie Atkins, the children’s ballet mistress and a retired Boston Ballet soloist. “She possesses a very natural stage presence and openness. The steps are no more difficult than those some of the other children have, but she’s the star and needs to have the presence to carry through both acts.”
Just 4-foot-7 and 67 pounds, Alexandra is graceful, light on her feet and attracts attention. Alexandra conveys the emotional volatility of an adolescent Clara, who experiences delight, sadness, confusion, courage and love.
“The role requires a lot of dramatic expression, and she brings a nice sense of herself, which can be rare at that age,” said Mariel MacNaughton, public relations and communications manager for the Boston Ballet. Alexandra shares the role with three other girls.
Although Alexandra has danced since age 3, she didn’t focus exclusively on ballet until this fall, when she joined the Boston Ballet School’s Norwell Studio at level Intermediate 1. After dancing at the Boston Ballet School at ages 6 and 7, she left to take a variety of dance classes for the next five years at The Gold School in Brockton.
“Some of the steps were difficult at first and I worked really hard to learn them,” said Alexandra, who rehearsed in Boston four times a week and took classes in Norwell. “I’ve learned so much. Not just in dance, but how to put on a professional production.”
It was clear during the audition that Alexandra quickly picked up steps that she hadn’t been taught before, Atkins said. And that has continued throughout the rehearsals.
“One of the nice things is I don’t have to hold her hand,” Atkins said. “If it’s a step she hasn’t done before, she tries it and when she comes to rehearsal again, she has learned it.”
As dance has occupied more of her time, Alexandra has given up soccer and gymnastics, though she continues to play piano and clarinet and sing in her school chorus. And “Nutcracker” rehearsals have given her more time with her friends from the Norwell Studio, many of whom are party girls.
“We all carpool,” she said. “It’s been fun.”
It’s also been a learning experience for her mother. Linda Storch expected to be a chauffeur, but didn’t know hairdresser was part of the package. Before each performance, she will spend about 45 minutes using a curling iron, hair spray and gel to create the curls that need to hold against so much motion.
“I’m awful with hair, but I’ve learned,” she said.
Eager for her daughter’s debut at the matinee this Sunday, Storch will be watching her daughter in the role for the first time because rehearsals are closed to parents.
“I think I’ll be very emotional and proud,” said Storch, a systems consultant at ING.
The young Clara expects to be nervous before she goes onstage.
“But I don’t think I’ll get stage fright once I’m dancing,” she said. “Then, it’s like I go into another world and I’m a totally new person.”
And when “The Nutcracker” ends, Alexandra has more excitement ahead: she will receive her first pointe shoes.