For The First Time Ever, A Black Girl Was Cast To Play Marie For The New York City Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’
Who doesn’t love the holiday season? From the food and decorations to the Christmas specials and “The Nutcracker,” the holidays usher in a fun season for everyone. The New York City Ballet is changing some traditions and cast the first Black girl to play Marie in the famous ballet.
The New York City Ballet’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” will have its very first Black ballet dancer in the lead role of Marie.
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Playing Marie will be 11-year-old Charlotte Nebres, who attends the School of American Ballet. The New York Times reports that the New York City Ballet chooses its young dancers typically from that roster of children that attend that school.
Danielle Nebres, Charlotte’s mother, recalled to The New York Times, the moment that her daughter informed her that she got the role. Charlotte casually told her mom that she won the part of Marie (out of 180 dancers) without making a big deal about it.
“With that poker face of hers, she said, ‘Well, I’m Marie,’ And I just thought, oh my goodness — they really did it,” Danielle told The New York Times. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Charlotte was told that she would be the first Black Marie ever to be cast by The New York City Ballet, to which she responded, “Wow. That seems a little late.”
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Yes, it is! For Charlotte, who’s only 11 years old, she isn’t as conditioned to witness white people in most lead roles and in general. She grew up watching another Black pioneer in ballet, Misty Copeland.
“I saw her perform, and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” Charlotte 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.”
Charlotte isn’t the only person of color in the year’s season of The Nutcracker. The cast also includes “Tanner Quirk, who is half-Chinese, as her prince; Sophia Thomopoulos, who is half-Korean and half-Greek as the other Marie; and Kai Misra-Stone, who is half-South Asian, as Sophia’s prince,” People magazine reports. Charlotte herself is half-Trinidad, half Filipino.
A New York City Ballet official said Charlotte wasn’t chosen to diversify the cast, but rather because she embodied the role of Marie completely.
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“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 CNN. “It has to be someone who can command the stage and who has enough confidence and spontaneity to handle whatever comes her way.”
The School of American Ballet has, however, made a point to diversify its students. They are, after all, the ones who teach future stage dancers. The New York Times reports that in the past seven years, only 62 students are of mixed race, 12 of them identify as Black, and of that group only four in total are women. Now, since the school is trying to diversify its class, the New York City Ballet has more diversity to choose from.
“Because I have the diversity of students and the pool to choose from that is diverse, some of those students will end up being the leads, and it just happened to work out without my even realizing it that all four were of some mixed diversity,” Abergel said to CNN. “And that’s just mirroring what’s happening in New York City and around the world.”
We love seeing more inclusivity in fictional characters that have been typically portrayed by white people.
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In recent years, we’ve seen several famous fictional characters, including Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” Cinderella, and even Maria, from “The West Story,” which were all previously played by white women. These stories are now being revised and played by women of color in order to show where our society has always been and how it is growing.
For Charlotte, however, while the inclusion of a black girl in The Nutcracker is a big deal for her, this is all about dancing.
“To me, it just feels like when I dance I feel free, and I feel empowered,” Charlotte told the New York Times. “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.”
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