Written by Sidney Harney
The New York City Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” will feature an African American woman playing the role of Marie. The show has been performed since 1954 and this is the very first time an African American girl has been cast for the role of Marie. The cast features not only an African American Marie, but a variety of other ethnicities. It is safe to say that New Yorkers and others attending the show are very excited for this tremendous step for the show.
11-year-old Charlotte Nebres is to play the role of Marie. The children’s ballet master for the New York City Ballet, Dena Abergel, said Charlotte was not cast for diversification purposes, but instead because she had the qualities to play the part. Abergel was quoted saying, “When I’m looking for someone who can do Marie, I’m looking for someone primarily who has an ability to act on stage and to convey a story,” said Abergel. “… It has to be someone who can command the stage and who has enough confidence and spontaneity to handle whatever comes her way.” She believes Nebres has all these necessary characteristics and this is why she was cast as Marie in this year’s performance. Charlotte had performed in last year’s Nutcracker and was featured in Sleeping Beauty as well. She is a dancer for the School of American Ballet which sends most of its dancers to the New York City Ballet. Naturally, it comes as no surprise that Charlotte was picked for the role.
This years production does feature many other feature roles as young African American children. Some even have said this is the most African American dancers the show has ever featured. According to The New York Times, Tanner Quirk, Marie’s prince, is half-Chinese. Marie’s understudy, Sophia Thomopoulos, is half-korean and half-greek. The understudy to Quirk, Kai Misra-Stone, is half-South Asian. This shows the School of American Ballet’s efforts to diversify The New York City Ballet by diversifying the school itself.
In the many, many years the show has been shown, this may very well be the best one yet due to the different ethnicities on display. It shows how far we, as a nation, have come with the acceptance of everyone. The efforts of Nebres, Quirk, Misra-Stone and Thomopoulos show how nothing can stop you if you give it everything you can.