Over nine years, I have traveled through Clara’s dreams

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Shelly Batterbee

I have come full circle, from being a little soldier looking on at the snowflakes to being a snowflake myself.

It has been nine years since I got my first email congratulating me on being in The Nutcracker

Nine years of choreography. Nine years of struggling through school at the same time as rehearsals into the late hours of the night. Nine years of memories and friendships. 

Nine years and around eighteen roles after that first acceptance letter, I have memorized the score, and occasionally listen to it throughout the year to think of the memories and joy that  The Nutcracker brings me. 

Every year, I can’t contain my excitement as the performances draw near. When I was little, I sat through hours of rehearsals and learned the entire ballet, despite being in only two roles. I watched the professionals in awe as they gracefully danced across the stage in control of everything. 

Before this year, the random songs I found through my family—whether they were Christmas-themed or not—filled the dressing rooms that smelled of hairspray. 

I try to model myself after the people I watched when I was younger.”

Before this year, new choreography ideas were formed and games were played. My friends and I would perform the whole ballet in the dressing room, trading roles every so often. 

I moved up from dressing room to dressing room, always timid of those in the next dressing room, but never afraid to help out those in the ones filled with younger dancers. 

This year, I didn’t watch many rehearsals. This year, I don’t have as much time to play the silly games, but The Nutcracker is still fun. I still make memories and still become my crazy self no matter how weird my friends think I am or who is listening. 

I sing songs at the beginning and end of very long days. I wear interesting Christmas outfits and try to bring joy to others’ lives. 

I usually work hard to figure out who has who for secret Santa, but this year, I am the Christmas elf that delivers all of the gifts. I am just given the secrets, but I love handing them out.

This year, I get to experience being in a corps as a flower and snowflake. I have found my favorite parts that I live in and the places I discover are easiest to breathe. Though I struggle to breathe, I feel accomplished in the end.

When I was younger, I looked up to the professionals in pointe shoes as they warmed up backstage. I couldn’t wait to be just like them. I can’t believe I’m even remotely like them now. 

Dancing as snow, flower, hot chocolate, and parent, I try to model myself after the people I watched when I was younger. I try to be a fun parent and interact with my “daughter.” I look at the costumes and the tutus I wear and I can’t believe how far I’ve come. 

I have gone from the little girl looking up at the snowflakes, flowers, and sweets, to being in those roles now, and I know that the little girl would be so proud of where I am.