Seven area ballerinas were among the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre (MBT) students who danced in a new ballet March 18-20 on the stage of the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College, Rockville. The Gaithersburg-based company staged five performances of the world premiere of “Becoming Sugar Plum,” an original fairytale ballet that tells the backstory of the Sugar Plum Fairy created by MBT Artistic Director Elizabeth Odell Catlett, Kentlands resident Heather Katz and composer Alexandra Bryant.
The cast featured Rachel Carson Elementary third-graders Mia Mozgovaya and Summer Allen, and fourth-grader Rachel Carreras as hummingbirds; fourth-graders Meredith Abramson and Anna Ross as periwinkles; Holton-Arms ninth-grader Annebeth Heller as a lollipop and a cotton candy cloud; and Quince Orchard High 10th-grader Genevieve Pelletier as the lead petit-four.
All the girls were familiar with “The Nutcracker” story, with most having danced in at least one of MBT’s renditions of the classic ballet. The new work extended the delightful story and gave them more information about an endearing character. Bertha Carreras noted that her daughter Rachel “likes the names of the fairies, and thinks the story is amazing.”
Jennifer Allen said that Summer “was interested to hear how she became the Sugar Plum … (and) fascinated by the whimsical and dark aspects.”
And Mia, for whom “Becoming Sugar Plum” was her debut performance, told her father, Oren Mozgovaya, that “You can learn things you never knew about the Kingdom of Sweets, such as one part becoming evil and harming other parts.”
Being the first to perform the new ballet was another aspect the girls appreciated. Three-time MBT “Nutcracker” dancer Meredith “loves the idea that no one else has ever danced this role before,” her mother, Andra Abramson, said.
MBT Executive Director Paula Ross said Anna, too, “enjoyed being part of something new.”
From the parents’ point of view, their daughters have benefitted greatly from their work at MBT. Mozgovaya has observed Mia’s increase in confidence and greater “ease in showing off what she’s learned. I am so proud she has taken on this challenge and proven to herself and everyone else what she is capable of!”
Allen said that Summer has learned “to understand the demands of a dancer and the importance of rehearsals, practice and working together with her peers to produce something beautiful.” She has noted her daughter’s improved form and sense of responsibility, as well as “an enhanced awareness of how music corresponds to the combinations (of) the dance.”
Abramson has observed that Meredith “is more focused mentally. During key rehearsal times—like tech week, which might have rehearsals from 5:30 to 9 p.m.—she knows she has to be on top of things so she gets her homework done fast, keeps track of her things on her own, and is ready to go on time. She is also much more in tune with her body. She understands how it can move, she knows it is strong, she realizes she has to take good care of it.”
Cheryl Heller noticed Annebeth, too, “has been more focused. She is at the studio six days a week and is able to manage her time well enough to also do well in her studies. Additionally, she is able to set goals that she works toward, which helps keep her focused—for example, a particular role in a production or getting promoted to the next level at the end of the year.”
Rachel “doesn’t mind the hard work because in her words, ‘it’s all worth it,’” Carreras said. In addition, her mother observed, “She has become more responsible because she has to be sure to pack all her stuff for the performances (slippers, make-up, hair stuff, etc.). She also has to be sure she is ready on time so she is not late to rehearsals and performances.”
Genevieve “is dedicated. She attends dance class and rehearsals five days a week,” Susan Pelletier said. “Many times, social invitations are declined due to dance commitments, but for her, dance is worth the sacrifice.”
“As parents, I think we’re always looking for what motivates our children,” Ross pointed out. Anna, she said, “is certainly motivated by the chance to be creative and perform. She feels confident in that setting. Also, I think the discipline of dance training has been good for her. Taking responsibility for her class uniform, being on time, practicing stretching at home, and remembering choreography for the next rehearsal have been good lessons for her.”