A symbol of magic, Charlotte Nebres has made history by becoming the first black ballerina to star as Marie – the young heroine of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” which happened Friday at New York City Ballet.
The Nutcracker is set to Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky’s classic score. It is the most famous stage production of ballet performed in the U.S. featuring the New York City Ballet’s entire roster of more than 150 dancers and musicians.
It also features more than 125 children, in two alternating casts, from the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet using the plot of Alexandre Dumas, père, version of E.T.A. Hoffmann‘s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816.
It premiered on February 2, 1954, at the New York City Center with costumes by Karinska and sets by Horace Armistead.
It has been staged in New York every year since and many other productions throughout the United States either imitate it or directly use the Balanchine staging.
Nebres, 11, starring as the first black Marie is a milestone for the productions, The New York Times reported.
Nebres, whose mother is of Trinidadian descent and father from the Philippines, is a student of the School of American Ballet. She was six years old when Misty Copeland became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theater.
“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.”
There were other young leads this season in addition to Nebres—Tanner Quirk (her Prince), who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos (Marie), who is half-Korean, half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone (Sophia’s Prince), who is half-South Asian. The children are always double cast.
Nebres is a “free spirit,” according to her mother. “It’s tough because we have past hurts, past injuries, and disappointments,” she said, “and you don’t necessarily want to color their worldview that way. You want them to approach it with their fresh perspective.” She added: “It really gave me chills thinking about it.”
“I just thought, they picked the wrong child,” Nebres’ mother continued. “She is introverted in away. But then when I saw her, I thought, O.K., I’m the one that doesn’t know Charlotte.”
“I think that’s the most interesting thing about this experience for me,” she said. “You don’t know what people are seeing in your child, and they are definitely seeing something in her.”
For Nebres “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. You don’t need to think about anything else.”