Kids find joy in hard work of performance

Beginning at the age of 5, children in Homer can audition for the biggest ballet production in the town, the Nutcracker. Skill level ranges from beginner to experienced dancers, and the experience can be in many types of dance. There are more than 150 parts for youth ages 5-18, with the parts evolving every year. 

Auditions in September are just the beginning of the work that the dancers must dedicate themselves to putting in before the December shows.

There are many reasons that youth decide to participate. Sierra DeLoach, a high school senior who’s dancing as a toy and a swan in her sixth Nutcracker this year, said, “My family went to watch the Nutcracker … and I was utterly in awe. I wanted to be a part of it.” 

Nine-year-old Annabelle Franciscone, playing a party kid and a jester in her second year, has similar reasons for wanting to participate. 

“I used to watch when the King Rat disappeared, and I wanted to be one of the cool people in the Nutcracker,” she said. 

While the dancers have many reasons to want to participate in the show, once they have auditioned and gotten a part — or four — they find that being in the Nutcracker has many obligations. Sierra, who has two parts in this year’s production, said, “I spend up to 21 hours probably, every week, just practicing and going to rehearsals and working on my dances.” 

Those weekly hours show themselves in many different activities. Some of the practice activities are favorites of the dancers while others are less favorable in the eyes of the youth. Thirteen-year-old Jackson Sarber, who has three parts — a rat in Acts One and Two and a Chinese dancer — is in his fifth year of the production. “The part I’m going to be practicing soon is my favorite. I’m going to be practicing rappelling during tech week,” he said.  

Eight-year-old Aria Hill, a third time performer, said her favorite part of practice was the party scene: “We get to run around and run to our parents, and sometimes they pick us up.” 

While the dancers all said they enjoyed practice, there were a few things that weren’t always easy. For Jackson, the toughest part is showing up on time every day.

Sabina Morin, age 10, who is in her fourth year of the ballet, said, “The hardest part is probably all of the yelling that happens.” 

But the performers have strategies to prepare for rehearsal. Sierra said that there are three things that she always makes sure to do outside of practice: “Icing my knee, stretching and making sure I’m active.”

Sabina, who will perform as a partier, hooper and jester, said the most important part of getting ready for practice is, “Practicing while I’m at home so I don’t mess up during practice.” 

While it’s a lot of work, the kids say being in the Nutcracker is a whole lot of fun — and many return year after year. 

“We moved to Homer five years ago, we tried it out and we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Jackson.

Ciara Cordes is a student at Homer Flex School.

27th Homer Nutcracker Ballet

WHEN: Dec. 5 

3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Dec. 6, 3 p.m.

Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 12, 3 p.m.

WHERE:  Mariner Theatre at Homer High School

WHO: 98 dancers — the biggest cast yet.

Directed by Jennifer Norton and Breezy Berryman and produced by Ken Castner

Tickets: $10 at the Homer Bookstore and River City Books in Soldotna

Homer’s Nutcracker Ballet

by the numbers


27 years of the Nutcracker in Homer

157th performance in Homer on Saturday at 3 p.m.

123 years since Tchaikovsky debuted the ballet in Russia

199 years since the original story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” was published

85 dancers aged 5-18 in the 2015 performance

13 adult performers

3 months of rehearsal

19 days of all-call rehearsal

• More than 200 costumes

• Over 100 volunteers

• More than 3,000 attendees each year