Take a moment to meet a few of our talented dancers and find out what dance means to them and why THEY Choose MPBT….

Olive: 2019 MPBT Photographer

Let’s see a little about me I’m a 17 year old senior dual enrolled at North Monterey County Center for Independent Study and MPC. I’ve always lived in Carmel, I grew up here. The arts have always been apart of my life, I’ve been dancing since I was 4. I grew up in an art family so it’s safe to say art is my life. My goal is to go to art school, study photography, maybe get a masters? Then use this skill to travel the world and show people a new side of our planet or what’s on the other side of the curtain.

Katie: 2019 ” Sugar Plum Fairy”

When I was ten, I sat perched on the edge of my seat, mesmerized by the gold-leafed walls and the sparkling chandeliers at the Alexandrinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. The curtain hung in the foreground as I anticipated the start of Swan Lake performed by the Mariinsky Ballet. Looking back on this moment, I realize the significance it had on inspiring me who I have become today: a ballerina.

Four and a half years ago, I embarked upon a career in Classical Ballet with its attendant hardships and rewards. The pain from dancing en pointe, blisters, bruises and blood, and nights spent soaking my feet in ice took its toll. However, I have been blessed with kind and talented friends and inspiring and wise teachers at The Dance Center. I followed my passion, working hard each day, and was rewarded the dream role of Clara last year.

Days before my first performance, I felt a snap in my foot and fell to the floor in pain. My worst fear had become my new reality: I would not be able to perform as Clara. This role had become my life and challenged my character as I had to say goodbye to a piece of me. I found acceptance with the support of my teachers, family, and friends, and sat in the audience, cheering on Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s 2018 cast with tears in my eyes.

As months passed, I focused on my recovery with the determined mindset to return to ballet.  My hard work and perseverance have culminated in the principal role of Sugar Plum Fairy, which will be an absolute honor to perform.

Ballet has taught me valuable life lessons of commitment, discipline, self-perseverance, and independence. I believe that I am prepared for life’s inevitable challenges and have the ability to persevere when faced with extreme hardship. My hope is that I can show younger girls and boys that when you fall, always get back up, just as I did.

Andrea: 2019 “Clara”

One year ago I joined The Dance Center, excited to take on a new challenge and meet new people but at the same time I was very nervous and shy. Shortly after joining the studio, Nutcracker season came around and I got to join MPBT. I was ecstatic to perform but when taking on many new things, schoolwork started to pile up and I had to learn time management. I was often stressed over homework, school, and other activities but persevered so that I could use every spare moment in time to dance.

I’m glad I learned perseverance and time management because MPBT’s Nutcracker was an amazing experience, I made many friends and learned how to play a part with confidence. I am so grateful to have found MPBT because they have given me many opportunities. Last year they helped me learn partnering skills and give back to the community through dance in special events. Their love and support has pushed me as a dancer and has helped me find my style in dance. This past year at TDC has prepared me for my role as Clara this year in the Nutcracker! I am super excited to play this role and I can’t wait to have this opportunity to learn and grow as a dancer.

Skye: 2019 “Nutcracker”

Throughout my past 16 years, the last 2 years have probably been the most rollercoaster, knock down, and build up ride of my life. The reason why I dance and love dancing so much is because it allows me to express myself without talking. It doesn’t just challenge me physically but dance also challenges me mentally which is the main reason why dance is such an escape and love of mine. In the last 2 years, but especially the past 6 months, I have struggled with many unexpected difficulties. During one of my hardest times, MPBT Nutcracker cast was there to help me stay strong and fight. The lovely MPBT founder Tia Brown has been by my side for the past 8 years and has been one of my main
supporters who has been there for me, not just as an amazing dance teacher, but as a life mentor. Being apart of the MPBT production as the Nutcracker with Tia has truly been so special and she has taught me so many things that will stay with me for the rest of my life. As Jalaluddin Rumi said “Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

Norah: 2019 “Snow Queen”

When I was two years old, I had amazing experience. I attended my first ballet class and LOVED it! I could wiggle all I wanted and shake out all of my toddler energy. When it was time to perform an Itsy Bitsy Spider dance we had learned I couldn’t wait to… stomp off my shoes and do half of the choreography. In time, dancing (especially ballet) became my biggest passion. I would not be where I am as a dancer if not for my incredible teachers: Laura Lobo, Laura Jeselnick, Maryann DeAngelis, Pam Keindl, Harmony True, and Tia Brown.

 Not all of my life has been as fantastic as that carefree recital. Juggling my schoolwork, volunteering at the Aquarium, and dancing fills up a huge part of my week. When the stress of the sheer amount of activities I participate in starts to become overwhelming, I turn to dance to express my emotions and dance all of my stress away. Channeling my stress into my art form has really helped me control my anxiety about school and volunteering.

Another aspect of my life that has been greatly affected by dance is my shyness. As a little girl, meeting new people, having a new teacher, and auditioning for a team, made me feel really nervous and usually caused me to not take those incredible opportunities. Thanks to my amazing Dance Center and Monterey Pennisula Ballet Theatre families I have overcome those fears and have learned how to use dance to express how hard those auditions, meeting new people, and learning from a new teacher, are for me.

 This year I am so honored to be stepping into the role of Snow Queen. It has been a dream of mine to one day perform this role and I am thrilled that this dream will be coming true! I can’t wait to be part of the party scene as one of Clara’s Friends and also as a Flower in the Land of Sweets! All I hope to do is bring a smile to at least one shy little girl in the audience that may one day step onto the stage and shine.  

 I live with my magnificent mother who is always making sure to get me to classes and rehearsals on time, my amazingly committed father who always loves to reprise his role of the man behind the Christmas tree, my loving and supportive little brother Evan, and my adorable dog Max. This is the dream that a two-year-old, in pigtails that stomped off her ballet shoes, never imagined coming true.

 Grace: 2019 “Rose Queen”

Without dance, I would not be the person that I am today. I have learned this through countless experiences that have been brought about because of dance. I believe the experience of performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in last year’s Nutcracker has made the biggest impact on my life thus far. I trained harder than I ever have, and I learned that hard work does pay off. It was this role that showed me how much I truly
love performing, and it is something that I would love to do as a career. I am eternally grateful for Tia Brown and the
creation of Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre. It is this organization that has enabled me to continue doing what I love and has lead me to be the proud, dedicated, and passionate young woman that I am today.

  

Sophie: 2019 “Arabian”

I’m Sophie and I am thrilled to be cast as the Arabian lead in this year’s production of the Nutcracker. This has been my dream part since I was a little girl. I’ve been dancing since I was four, and I can still remember the feelings I had when I first started performing. I felt exhilarated, alive, and like I never wanted to leave the stage. My passion for dance has grown throughout the years and is at the point now where I could never imagine giving it up. Going to the studio to dance with my teammates and to be guided by my teachers has been a safe haven for me. If I was having a bad day, I knew I had dance to look forward to. If I was going through a tough time, it was my escape. And I always knew that when I danced, I was free to express my feelings, whether they be feelings of joy or sadness, worry or celebration. My closest friends, those who have my complete trust, are my fellow dancers. We have a special bond that I cherish. I think that the hard work we have put into dance over the last several years has helped to make us closer, because we have had to rely on each other and encourage each other on a daily basis. I have also enjoyed working with younger kids and seeing them have the same opportunity to reap these benefits by being a dancer. Nutcracker is a special time of year when families come together to celebrate the holidays and enjoy seeing the children in the community come together to perform. I am grateful I have been one of these children and when i graduate in a couple of years, I will be taking so many memories and experiences with me that have shaped me as a dancer and a person.

Evan: 2019 “Mouse Queen”

My name is Evan, I’m a fourteen year old sophomore at Carmel High School, originally from Long Beach, California. In sixth grade we left home and moved to Carmel, this was incredibly hard considering I didn’t know any of the other kids or the campus. I felt like an outsider looking in until I came to The Dance Center. Everyone was welcoming and kind and I wanted to spend as much time there as I could; however, I was struggling to focus in school and keep up with my classes and as a result, had to lighten my time at the studio, where I had begun to make important and lasting friendships. 

Thankfully, come eight grade with determination and support, I was able to develop the habits needed to help me succeed in my classes and incorporate more dance back in my life. With Nutcracker auditions approaching last year I knew I wanted to overcome my struggles with self-confidence and learn to stand out instead of hiding in the back and fearing I would be noticed. To do this I started working harder and getting more comfortable with my movement which led me to feeling much better about myself and landed me with my first lead role, Soldier Doll! 

Growing this confident mindset and seeing the results through my dance gave me the motivation to continuously better myself throughout this entire year which has prepared me to now have the lead role of Mouse Queen! I am so grateful to MPBT for the opportunity to play this part, and to all of the teachers who have helped me along the way to being here. This Nutcracker season is going to be amazing.

Sage: 2019 “Reed Pipe Lead”

My name is Sage and I am a 14 year old sophomore at Monterey High School.  I can say that in my life I have found my power through dance. While a lot of teenage girls go through cycles of ups and downs, I know that I am an athlete so I support myself and train for my sport. This emphasis on being strong and developing the muscles needed to excel in advanced movements has kept my relationship with my body positive. Behind every pretty ballerina is a solid foundation. Motivated by my desire to improve my strength as a dancer before Nutcracker season I attended a summer intensive and trained the hardest I have in my life. Rising to these challenges to prepare for MPBT’s production has enabled me to showcase that I am not just a delicate girl. I am a powerful athlete. This year I am a Lead Reed Pipe and I look forward to bringing my role to life in this holiday production. 

Chloe: 2019 “Reed Pipe Lead”

I have always loved to dance. When I was little I would get into trouble for being so “wiggly”. I always took this ability to move for granted and would use it as my coping mechanism for anything going on in my life, good or bad. I would celebrate by dancing, calm my fears by dancing and just live my life through dance. Then a couple of years ago I hurt my knee dancing-not even doing anything huge-just a drag step and bam! There it was dislocated knee cap, knee immobilizer, crutches and weeks of physical therapy. This was about five weeks before recital and I believed that I could make it back to dance in a couple of days. Wow was I wrong! I realized that what I loved so much could be taken away really quickly. The road back was so challenging, what I missed most was my ability to move my way through my day with ease and freedom. It felt like missing recital was missing the “big game” and I had to dig deep to learn other ways to channel whatever I was feeling. I came back to dance the week before the inaugural Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theater Nutcracker auditions. I had been out for two and a half months and really didn’t know if I could make it back but Tia knew me better than I knew myself and gave me two pointe roles that tested me and reminded me that nothing worth doing is easy. Since then I have never taken my dancing for granted. I am a Senior so this year will be my final Nutcracker. I will leave knowing that not only have I grown through the times when I have danced but especially the times when movement has alluded me. 

Arielin: 2019 “Reed Pipe”

My name is Arielin, I’m sixteen years old, and for fourteen of those years I’ve danced. I can’t really imagine my life without dance, at this point it has become a part of me, and I wouldn’t be me without it. I’ve also been homeschooled for nearly all of my life, so dance has been the only place I’ve been able to make longlasting friends.

This year I decided to make a big change. I switched from the studio I had been dancing at for five years to The Dance Center. I left the friends I had made and all that was comfortable to me. It was and is really hard for me, but Tia and everyone at Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre and The Dance Center has been so welcoming to me.  I’m so excited to spend the next two years before I graduate as part of the MPBT and TDC families. 

Nina: 2019 “Lead Reed Pipe”

Eleven years ago, a shy little girl took the first dance class of her life. That day, a flame of passion ignited inside of me. Despite hiding in the back of the studio in silence out of diffidence, I had the time of my life. At the end of that year, when I stepped foot on stage for the first time, a new persona took over me. All of the insecurity and shyness that rested within me throughout daily life disappeared as I danced up on the stage. That shy little girl transformed into a confident, bold dancer under the spotlights, and I knew that I wanted to dance for the rest of my life. While the shy little girl may have been able to breakthrough her wall of insecurity when on stage, I still hid behind it everywhere else. I may not have realized it when I was younger, but dance and performing was the way I could truly express myself.

So a year later, when my mother asked me if I wanted to dance in my studio’s annual Nutcracker, I surprisingly had no interest. My mother signed me up, regardless, and of course, I fell in love with The Nutcracker a s much as I did with dance. My passion for dance and The Nutcracker only increased as I grew older. However, my constant shyness in the studio remained, and I continued to rely on the stage as a place of comfort where I could be myself. It wasn’t until I became part of The Dance Center’s and Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s families, that I had fully overcome my shyness. My gloriously supportive instructors had created such a welcoming environment, I realized that I didn’t have any reason to hide in the back of the studio in silence. I became much more comfortable in class, and I made the best friends I still have today. Eleven years ago, the shy little girl danced because it ignited a flame of passion within her. Today, not only do I dance because of that same flame, or because it is my way of expressing myself, but because of the second home and second family it has led me to.

Nina: 2019 “Reed Pipe Lead”

Eleven years ago, a shy little girl took the first dance class of her life. That day, a flame of passion ignited inside of me. Despite hiding in the back of the studio in silence out of diffidence, I had the time of my life. At the end of that year, when I stepped foot on stage for the first time, a new persona took over me. All of the insecurity and shyness that rested within me throughout daily life disappeared as I danced up on the stage. That shy little girl transformed into a confident, bold dancer under the spotlights, and I knew that I wanted to dance for the rest of my life. While the shy little girl may have been able to breakthrough her wall of insecurity when on stage, I still hid behind it everywhere else. I may not have realized it when I was younger, but dance and performing was the way I could truly express myself.

So a year later, when my mother asked me if I wanted to dance in my studio’s annual Nutcracker, I surprisingly had no interest. My mother signed me up, regardless, and of course, I fell in love with The Nutcracker a s much as I did with dance. My passion for dance and The Nutcracker only increased as I grew older. However, my constant shyness in the studio remained, and I continued to rely on the stage as a place of comfort where I could be myself. It wasn’t until I became part of The Dance Center’s and Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s families, that I had fully overcome my shyness. My gloriously supportive instructors had created such a welcoming environment, I realized that I didn’t have any reason to hide in the back of the studio in silence. I became much more comfortable in class, and I made the best friends I still have today. Eleven years ago, the shy little girl danced because it ignited a flame of passion within her. Today, not only do I dance because of that same flame, or because it is my way of expressing myself, but because of the second home and second family it has led me to.

Cecilia: 2019 “Lead Candy Cane”

I am Cecilia,   also known as Ceci or, to some, Bubbles. I am fourteen and in eighth grade at Santa Catalina. Dance has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I took part in my first Nutcracker when I was seven, danced my first solo competition piece when I was ten, and started dancing en pointe at eleven. I’ve learned so much from dance like hard work, determination and composure and I apply these skills to my schoolwork on an almost daily basis. The thing I love most about dance is that it’s happy work. What I mean by that is I love working at something I really really enjoy! At school I work to get good grades and, eventually, use those good grades to get into a good college, etc. But at dance I relish the chance to work with Tia on a really complicated solo piece, pulling it apart bit by bit, and then putting it back together again with all of my newly sharpened skills that Tia has helped me to polish until I’m as shiny as one of those many crystals she’s glued to my tutu! I carry that shine with me as I head off to school, confident that I can accomplish anything because nothing can be as hard as working with Tia for thirty minutes at the bar trying to improve my arabesque!

Dancing with MPBT is exciting and rewarding. I get to experience what it would be like to dance with a company, learning new parts, meeting new people and collaborating with dancers from a variety of skill levels that I wouldn’t normally get to interact with. Being a part of the Nutcracker is also a responsibility. Being a cast member is like being on a team. Castmates are counting on me to take care of my body by protecting it from illness and injury which means getting plenty of rest, eating good food (and sometimes a bit of “junk” food), exercising to keep my muscles strong, and knowing when to take care of a sore foot or muscle before it becomes a larger injury. Dance has helped me to become very aware of my body, it’s gifts and limitations and I do my best to respect and take care of it.

Why Dance? Because I think it’s the most fun thing in the world right now! Why MPBT? There are a thousand reasons like amazing teachers (Tia, Kiera, Maryann, Laura L.), exciting choreography, fun with friends who are like family, and the list can go on. But my number one reason is that I love every minute! Playing “Fantasy Nutcracker” before the cast list comes out, the excitement of auditions and new choreography, and the indescribable thrill I get every time I’m with my friends on stage as we twirl across the floor. It’s amazing! And a really big thank you to Tia, for working so hard at bringing The Nutcracker back to us again this year!

Katie: 2019 “Lead Candy Cane”

Dance has deeply affected my life and is helping me grow into the person I am supposed to be. As an introvert, it has been very difficult for me to express myself. Dance allows me the freedom to convey who I am and how I feel through movement. Dance also pushes me out of my comfort zone, which has challenged me and given me opportunities to mature as a person. I can’t imagine my life without it. I love to dance because it inspires me and brings me so much joy! I feel blessed to be part of the Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theater for my third year and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something so incredibly beautiful!

Sierra: “Chinese Lead”

At the age of three, I took my very first dance class at pre-school.  I remember the excitement of putting on pink tights, a pink leotard, and of course pink ballet slippers.  Our teacher would have us jump and twirl and move to the rhythm of music.  I was free and could express my excitement, my joy, and even my frustrations.  Dance instantly brightened my day.  Dance became a little part of my life.  I never would have imagined how big of a part it would be as I grew older.  Between ages three through nine, I took a few dance classes in the community and at school.  Yet there was something inside of me that wanted more – more expression, more dance.  As soon as The Dance Center opened,
I started taking classes and I soon realized that I could not live without dance. My strongest friendships are between my fellow dancers and I.  They are my best friends, my greatest confidants, and my biggest cheerleaders.  Furthermore, the supportive, loving, and nurturing environment that the instructors have provided has helped me learn and grow even more.  My greatest joy in life is spending time with those I care about and those who care about me, and The Nutcracker does that – we are like a family, a very functional and loving family.  We take care of each other and truly enjoy spending time with one another.  During the holidays, this is what matters – being able to spend time with those you love.  

Piper: 2017 “Chinese Lead”

Dancing at Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre has changed my life for the better. Being a dancer teaches you discipline, respect, and perseverance. Not to mention all of the lifelong friendships I have made through MPBT. These friendships are what I look forward to at the end of a long day, rehearsal, or class. Although I love late-night rehearsals with all my friends, performing on stage is my favorite part. When I was six years old, I sat in the audience watching the Nutcracker, mesmerized by the elegance of all the beautiful dancers. Never in my life
would I have guessed that one day I would be the one dancing on stage, glancing down at another little girl staring up at me. The second I took my first step on stage as a lead dancer in 2017, I knew that’s where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. It gives you a feeling you can’t get anywhere else and will change your life forever. Being on stage surrounded by people that you love and looking out into a sea full of people is my favorite place to be.
Looking back on all the memories I have from past years gives me so much joy. Being a dancer at Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre undoubtedly gives you an experience like no other it gives you, friendships, amazing memories, and great training. I am forever grateful for teachers and friends. I am so excited to be apart of such a beautiful production again this year!

Macy: 2019 “Chinese Lead”

 My name is Macy, I am eighteen years old and a senior at the Monterey Bay Educational Center (MBEC).  Dancing has been a constant in my life since I was four.  I wasn’t always enrolled in dance classes, but I was always leaping, twirling or gliding around the house and at school to whatever music was on or playing in my head.  My first year at The Dance Center (when I was in seventh grade) was transformative as it was the first time I was given the opportunity to join a competitive team and also have my very first competitive solo, both in Hip Hop.  That same year, I started assisting teachers in class, and I was promoted to dancing en pointe, which I was ecstatic about! My sophomore year of high school I transitioned from a traditional school to a more flexible school schedule so I could focus more of my time on dance with the goal of preparing for college dance programs.  It was very hard leaving my friends at my old school, but I realized I could maintain my friendships while still working towards my dance goals. By taking countless hours of ballet, jazz, and contemporary privates and going through blood, sweat and tears (more sweat and tears than blood) with both Tia and Laura L., I can honestly say that I have never been more confident and ready for college and the next chapter of my life!  Dance has taught me to let out my creative side through movement and emotion and to not be afraid to take chances. The Dance Center, it’s teachers, and my fellow dancers have changed my life these past five years in an inspiring way, and I will miss all of it next year.

Why MPBT?  From the time I was in fifth grade I’ve focused much of my time and energy on hip-hop and didn’t think much about ballet, until my little sister convinced me to audition for the Nutcracker.  My first year dancing for MPBT’s Nutcracker I was cast as a Harlequin and was thrilled to have the opportunity to dance the part in a way that was unexpectedly funky and less about classical ballet.  That’s when I realized that dancing in MPBT’s Nutcracker means there’s a place for everyone; Tia creates a place for everyone to shine regardless of dance style or ability.  It’s less about being an amazing ballerina (although we have those too!) and more about coming together and having an opportunity to dance as a community towards a common goal. Thank you to Tia and Laura L. for pushing me and having confidence in me and my abilities!

Grace G.: 2019 “Ballerina Doll”

I am Grace;   I moved from Los Angeles and joining MPBT has been an incredible experience for me. The training along with the friendships I have formed have exceeded all my wishes. I have been dancing since the age of 9. I knew the first time I put in my ballet slippers that I had found my true sense of belonging. I found a way to express myself any emotions. Dance has been my haven as I have transitioned to a new town, new home and new life in Carmel. Last year I had a pretty bad knee injury resulting in surgery which kept me from dancing for several months. This was not only physically but emotionally challenging period. This year I will be performing the role of Ballerina Doll and I am so excited and grateful to be back on the stage. Thank you MPBT for this amazing opportunity.