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Young dancers take on dream roles in 'The Nutcracker'

November 06, 2017

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Someone once said that dancing is like dreaming with your feet.

For two local young women, it’s also like breathing.

Madelyn Wolfe and Analisa Harter, both 16, each began studying dance at a very young age. They each began elsewhere, but are now studying at the Averitt Center for the Arts, and will both perform in The Nutcracker this month at the Emma Kelly Theater.

And this year, they both get to wear tiaras, something they will happily tell you with ear-to-ear smiles.

Harter has been in the production each year since 2005, when she was 4 years old. She’s played an angel, a mouse, a soldier, a garden girl, a Sugar Plum Fairy attendant and an Arabian, and was also a Snow Queen attendant one year, along with Wolfe. This year, she’ll be dancing as marzipan, a flower and as the Snow Queen, a dream role for her.

Harter, who is the daughter of Michelle and James Harter, had looked up to Emily Winn, who was a helper in her first dance class at Statesboro School of Dance. Winn danced as the Snow Queen when Harter was an attendant.

“I wanted to be her. I thought she was smart and beautiful and talented. And this year, I get to be Snow Queen, so it’s really cool,” she said.

This will be Wolfe’s eighth performance in the famed holiday ballet. In addition to her attendant role with Harter, she has played a mouse, a party boy, a gingerbread boy, a snowflake, an Arabian, a Spanish dancer and a flower. When she was in the fifth grade in 2012, she auditioned for a role with only one request – she didn’t want to play a boy again.

What she walked away with was her dream role. Wolfe, whose parents are Kim and Robert Wolfe, was cast in the lead role as Clara.

“I used to dance around the house, with Nutcracker curls and a party dress. And then I was cast as Clara, and it was the most exciting thing ever,” she said, smiling.

This year, she will be taking on the role of the Rock Queen, a candy cane and the Dewdrop Fairy.

Taking on larger roles this year is proof positive that hard work has its rewards, as both young women have earned the roles they have dreamed of playing.

Both girls say that dance is a vital part of their lives, and that it has taught them discipline and self-confidence.

“What I love about dance is that it just makes me feel free and it’s another way to express yourself, instead of just words,” said Wolfe. “When I dance it just makes me feel happy, like I just can’t stop smiling.”

“I think dance is so much a part of my life and how I am,” said Harter. “I think that dance helps you build confidence, because you have to perform. I have had to give a speech before and it wasn’t a big deal, because if you can perform at the Averitt Center, you can give a speech in front of people.”

Each of the girls dances, on average, about 14 hours each week. But with their roles in The Nutcracker, that rehearsal time intensifies. Auditions take place in early August, and rehearsals begin soon after roles are assigned, and get more intense as opening night looms.

Although dance is an integral part of each of their lives, the two young women have given thought to life beyond their pointe shoes. Wolfe hasn’t decided exactly what she wants to do after high school, but she plans to attend college and hopes to minor in dance, and knows she would like to continue to dance.

“I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life,” she said. She spent three weeks last summer in Philadelphia at The Rock School for Dance Education, a spot she had to audition for.

Harter also worked last summer, taking classes at the Averitt. She is thinking of majoring in nursing at Georgia Southern University, and thinks she may return someday to perform with the adults in the party scene of The Nutcracker.

The cast for this year’s show is large, with about 45-50 people. Both young women agree that it’s a lot of work to prepare, but they are looking forward to the experience.

“I just love being at the Averitt Center and just hanging out with my friends all day. It’s tiring but it’s just so much fun,” said Wolfe.

Harter nodded in agreement, adding that the dancers have become like a family.

“We’re dance sisters,” she said.

The Nutcracker will be performed on Nov. 17 and 18, at 7:30 p.m. each evening, and on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. Now in its 11th year, the ballet is under the direction of interim Statesboro Youth Ballet Director Taylor Ellen. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 years old and younger. Purchase tickets online at or by calling (912) 212-2787.


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