The timeless Christmas-themed ballet “The Nutcracker” has been a cultural phenomenon for the past 50 years. Major American ballet companies, including the world-renowned New York City Ballet, rely on performances of “The Nutcracker” to generate over 40 percent of their revenue.
Even with such a classic production, the New York City Ballet found a way to make “The Nutcracker” feel fresh. For the first time the ballet has even been performed, the role of the heroine Marie will be played by a young woman of color.
Charlotte Nebres, just 11 years old, is the first black girl to play Marie. “It was a little bit surprising,” Nebres said when asked how she felt to be offered the part, “But then it sunk in that, ‘Well, if I’m going to be doing this role and I’m the first person, then I want to make it count,’ so I really wanted to make it special for everyone in the audience, and for the people onstage as well.”
Nebres also stated that she was inspired by Misty Copeland, who became the American Ballet Theater’s first black principal dancer four years ago. “I saw her perform, and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” she said. “She was representing me and all the people like me.”
Danielle Nebres, the groundbreaking lead’s mother and a former dancer, was born and raised in New York. She stated that this opportunity for her daughter would not be possible just a few years ago. “It’s sort of magical for me to see that sort of just hopefulness and just realizing that there is no limits. So I’m sort of learning through her that maybe the way things were aren’t what they are any longer,” she said.