For the first time since the annual holiday production began in 1954, the lead role of Marie in The New York City Ballet's production of "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," is a black ballerina.
Eleven-year-old Charlotte Nebres, whose mother's family is from Trinidad and father's is from the Philippines, is a student at the School of American Ballet.
The leading role of the young heroine is known as Marie in the New York City Ballet's production, in others the young girl who dreams The Nutcracker to live is called Clara.
"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," Dena Abergel, children's ballet master at New York City Ballet, told The New York Times. "... It has to be someone who can command the stage and who has enough confidence and spontaneity to handle whatever comes her way."
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Charlotte is a student at the School of American Ballet where most of the City Ballet's members originate.
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After Nebres heard that she got the role she told her mother the news with a deadpan delivery.
"With that poker face of hers, she said, 'Well, I'm Marie,' And I just thought, oh my goodness — they really did it. I couldn't believe it," her mother recalled.
Charlotte couldn't believe that she was the first black girl to be cast as Marie. "Wow. That seems a little late," she said after hearing the news.
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Charlotte's mother believes there's a fine line when it comes to celebrating her daughter's accomplishment.
"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 said.
"It really gave me chills thinking about it," she added.
The young ballerina believes her prominent role in the production may inspire other people of color to become involved in the ballet.
"It's pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B., but also representing all of our cultures," she told the New York Times. "There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, hey, I can do that, too."
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