Charlotte Nebres Aged 11 Became The First Black Girl To Play Marie In “The Nutcracker”

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Since 1954, this is the first time in NYC’s Holiday production of ‘George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker’ that the female lead would be an 11 years old girl of color. The role of Marie would be played by Charlotte Nebres, who is of mixed descent. Her father is from the Philippines, and her mother’s family hails from Trinidad. Charlotte herself is a trained ballerina at the School of American Ballet.

There is a slight debate regarding the character of ‘Marie’. In the NYC production, the character is called ‘Marie’, while in other productions the character is referred to as ‘Clara’- one who wishes the Nutcracker was alive.

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IN THE NEWS // The four School of American Ballet @sab_nyc children who alternate the roles of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince were recently profiled in The New York Times by Gia Kourlas. She sat down with them to discuss the rehearsal process, their lives off-stage, and their roles in the ballet.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ When asked about why ballet is important to her now, in this moment, 11 year-old Charlotte Nebres, pictured here in rehearsal for her role as Marie, said:⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ "To me, it just feels like 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."⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Photo: Heather Sten @heathersten for The New York Times @nytimes⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ See these very young dancers, who are the heart of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®, now on stage through JAN 5. Tap the link in bio for tickets and more information.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #nutcracker #nycbnutcracker #thenutcracker #nutcrackerballet #holidayseason #georgebalanchinesthenutcracker #ballet #dance #balletdancer #dancelife #balletlife #instaballet #dancers #choreography #balanchine #nycb #nycballet #newyorkcityballet #newyorkcity #linkinbio #schoolofamericanballet

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Dena Abergel, in charge of searching for the character of Marie, mentioned that her main search was to find someone who would not just dance, but also narrate. A ballerina, whose ballet would narrate a story- one who would command the stage with her presence and whose personality would keep the audience glued to the stage.

Abergel told the New York Times that she wanted someone who would be spontaneous and react to changing circumstances with guile, and Charlotte Nebres fit the bill perfectly.

Charlotte Nebres

Charlotte Nebres, with a deadpan face, told her mother that she was ‘Marie’. Her mother, on the other hand, was beside herself with joy and slightly incredulous that her daughter showed no expression. Maybe that’s what Abergel was looking for.

What seemed to be the icing on the cake was her cynical and sarcastic reply to the news that she was the first woman of color to be in that role. While her mother agreed by the sentiment and mentioned that while the past holds several horrors, disappointments, and terrors, it is not right to color the present generation’s minds with that. She wants Charlotte Nebres to come with a completely fresh mindset that will help her broaden her horizon.

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IN THE NEWS // The four @sab_nyc children who alternate the roles of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince were recently profiled in The New York Times by Gia Kourlas. She sat down with them to discuss the rehearsal process, their lives off-stage, and their roles in the ballet.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ When asked who the Nutcracker Prince is to him, 11-year-old Kai Misra-Stone (pictured at top right) said, "The Prince is this character that develops. In the beginning, he is Drosselmeier’s nephew and then it’s almost as if he transforms into the Nutcracker and then goes back to being the Prince. He comes out of his shell and just opens up and is like: Here I am."⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Thirteen-year-old Tanner Quirk (pictured in the foreground), is the oldest of the four, and has also previously played Marie's bratty brother Fritz in the production. To him, the Nutcracker Prince "is very brave and compassionate especially toward his Marie, which is what I aspire to be like in real life, too."⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Photo: Heather Sten @heathersten for The New York Times @nytimes⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ See these very young dancers who are the heart of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®, now on stage through JAN 5. Tap the link in bio for tickets and more information.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ #nutcracker #nycbnutcracker #thenutcracker #nutcrackerballet #holidayseason #georgebalanchinesthenutcracker #ballet #dance #boysdancetoo #balletdancer #dancelife #balletlife #instaballet #dancers #choreography #balanchine #nycb #nycballet #newyorkcityballet #newyorkcity #linkinbio #schoolofamericanballet

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Charlotte Nebres believes that her role would inspire others to stand up and believe that they can do it too. She mentions how there might be someone in the audience who would be looking at her and deciding that they would do it too. Nebres told the NYT that this was a huge opportunity for her to not just represent her school, but also her culture.

 

Featured Image: ERIN BAIANO/NYC BALLET

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