Lodians will experience the magic of the holiday season when the Lodi Ballet presents its annual production of “The Nutcracker.”
The ballet tells the story a young girl, Clara, who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life and wages a war with the evil mouse king. After defeating the mouse king, the Nutcracker becomes a prince, and the pair travel through the Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Berlyn Ikenze, 10, and Valeria Serrano Rodriguez, 13, will be featured in lead roles during this year’s performance. Ikenze had been working hard in her dance classes to catch her instructor’s attention, in hopes of being chosen for a lead role, she said.
“I tried to get fully into it. I practiced turning out good and stretching my foot,” Ikenze said.
Her hard work paid off, because she was chosen for the role of Clara.
“I’m super excited, and I just can’t wait to dance,” she said.
This will be Ikenze’s first time performing in “The Nutcracker” with the Lodi Ballet. However, she has performed in the ballet several times with her previous dance studio.
Serrano Rodriguez will be joining the traditional holiday performance with the Lodi Ballet for the third time. In previous years, she played Clara, performed in the Chinese dance and danced as a party kid during the party scene.
“I enjoy feeling the Christmas vibes, and the party scene where all the kids are having fun and getting toys makes me feel Christmasy,” Serrano Rodriguez said.
This year she will be the lead rose in the Waltz of the Flowers.
Both girls have been studying ballet for several years. Ikenze began dancing when she was 3 years old.
“I like how graceful it is, and one of my favorite ballerinas is Misty Copeland. I love how she dances and moves, and I really like her,” Ikenze said.
Serrano Rodriguez has been dancing four years. Ballet wasn’t initially her first choice — she wanted to attend hip hop classes. But they conflicted with her schedule, so she opted for ballet instead. Once she attended her first class, she “fell in love with it.”
“I like the release that I get. You kind of get to let all of your emotions out,” she said.
A lot of practice has gone in to making this year’s performance a success, Ikenze and Serrano Rodriguez said. The dancers all practice for two hours almost every day.
For Ikenze, practicing and remembering all of her steps is the hardest part of preparing for the performance. She may forget sometimes, but she always tries to keep going.
Serrano Rodriguez agreed that the practicing is tough and has really taken a toll on her feet. But even though her feet may hurt, Serrano Rodriguez said she wants keep dancing and never wants the performances to end. She already has plans to participate in next year’s performance, and is hoping to snag the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
“It’s like the most advanced dance in the whole show, and you get to dance with a partner,” she said.
Ikenze is just as enthusiastic, and is looking forward to one scene in particular.
“My favorite part is when we do the party scene because we have to do a lot of acting, and I like acting,” she said. “I also like when the two dolls dance and the soldier dance. I really like (the soldier dance) the most.”