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Black 11-year-old wins Nutcracker lead


Four years ago, Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Now an 11-year-old girl is also breaking barriers as the star of the New York City Ballet’s  holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

According to the New York Times, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, danced her way into ballet history as New York City Ballet’s first Black “Marie,” the young heroine of a show that dates back to 1954.

The annual production also includes a diverse cast of other young leads this season, including Tanner Quirk, Marie’s Prince in the ballet, who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos, the ballet’s second casting of Marie, who is half-Korean and half-Greek; and Kai Mistra-Stone, Sophia’s prince, who is half-South Asian.

“It’s pretty amazing to not only be representing SAB, but also representing all of our cultures,” Nebres said. “There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, ‘hey, I can do that to.’”

Nebres was just 6 years old when she was inspired by Copeland’s performance.

“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” Nebres said. When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, ‘That’s amazing.’ She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Nebres, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad while her father’s side of the family is from the Philippines, is becoming a trailblazer herself with the role of Marie and is enjoying the moment.

“It just feels like when dance, I feel free and I feel empowered,” she said. “I feel like I can do anything when I dance.”