The Nutcracker, a Tradition That is Also Modernized

The Nutcracker, a Tradition That is Also Modernized

Charlotte Nebres, 11, is the first black ballerina to win the coveted role of Marie, the young heroine in the story of "The Nutcracker."

Charlotte Nebres, 11, is the first black ballerina to win the coveted role of Marie, the young heroine in the story of "The Nutcracker".

Her story is just one example of the changing phase of the world of classical dance. Every year, students from the famous School of American Ballet star in the annual performance of "The Nutcracker."

World-renowned choreographer George Balanchine founded the school in 1934 to foster young talent to move onto the elite stage of the New York City Ballet.

Since 1954 there has never been a Marie who looks like Charlotte Nebres. Her mother was born and raised in New York City, and she is honored to see her daughter achieve such success at a young age in an industry that traditionally casts lead roles for white artists.

Now dancers are given makeup and hair products to enhance their features, not alter them. Charlotte's mother told CBS, "One thing they made clear to us is that she didn't have to change her hair. For black women, it's important to know that you are beautiful enough just the way you are."

Promoting tolerance and multiracial lead roles is now a priority for ballet schools. They are now making casting decisions that better reflect the city's population. Ballet was a European art form when it came to the US and it was based on standards of beauty that were very white. The dance work took a long time to recognize it and then change it.

Women of color are multidimensional, but they are also soft, angelic, and ethereal. If society recognizes this, black dancers would have more opportunities to reserve leading roles in plays that were initially only performed for white women.


Charlotte told TODAY that she has been dancing since she was in her mom's stomach. From her home to an audience of more than 2,000 at New York City's Lincoln Center, the young dancer is making history.

The character of Marie guides the audience throughout the entire ballet. She dances at the Christmas party, fights the Mouse King, and stands her ground with the plum fairy. In short, Marie and Charlotte must be captivating.

She attends the prestigious School of American Ballet with her two brothers. When Charlotte landed the role of Marie, it wasn't the only surprise that awaited the young dancer. The young talent found inspiration from her: Misty Copeland, the African-American principal principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. She stopped by to watch the show.

Charlotte may not feel the same challenges that she had before, but like her character Marie of hers, she hopes to guide those who come after her. "I just want to make sure that yes, I am the first black Marie, but I also want to make sure that I am not the last," she revealed.

In a New York Times story, Charlotte said that she feels empowered and that she can do anything when she dances. The young dancer's career on stage is about to take off. Her multiracial background, half black, and half Filipino will inspire the children in the audience to achieve her dreams as well.

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