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Teen lands leading role in PA Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

Dancer Sydney Dolan proves that age is nothing but a number.
Sydney Dolan rehearses with Austin Eyler. | Vikki Sloviter
Sydney Dolan rehearses with Austin Eyler. Vikki Sloviter

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker,” and beginning on Dec. 8, the Pennsylvania Ballet will perform the holiday classic at the Academy of Music.

While many young dancers dream of one day taking the stage there, that dream is already a reality for 16-year-old Sydney Dolan, who has been cast in one of the lead roles in “The Nutcracker.”

“I am performing as the dewdrop in ‘The Waltz of the Flowers’ — she’s the queen of the flowers, the leader. Aside from the sugar plum fairy,  it’s a really big role,” she says.

The Philadelphia native took her first ballet class at the age of three.

“My mom did ballet as a teen. I was also a bubbly child and liked to dance around. Whenever I saw anything that had to do with ballet I was interested, so my mom put me into class,” she remembers.

By the age of seven, she already starred in her first production of “The Nutcracker.”

“One year I was Fritz — Marie’s younger brother — who is very mischievous,” Dolan says. “I did that at Burke Civic Ballet in Virginia.”

Flash forward to today and she’s working with one of her all-time inspirations, artistic director, Angel Corella.

“I always knew about PA Ballet and I had heard through the media that Angel was taking over and it was a huge deal,” she says. “I was 15 at the time and I came to the summer program.  I took a class and after the second day he offered me a contract.”

Behind the dream-like beauty of ballets like “The Nutcracker” is a lot of hard work, however.

“The core work in this ballet is very difficult. It’s a lot of hard steps and jumps but it gets you in great shape,” Dolan reveals.

Some of her favorite scenes in “The Nutcracker” include “The Battle Scene,” “The Land of the Sweets” and of course, her starring moment in “The Waltz of the Flowers.”

“This is a great tradition for Christmas and to get into the holiday spirit. It’s  great way to bond with your kids,” she says. “It’s a great way to introduce them to the art form. Students don’t get the exposure to art that they should.”

So what does Dolan do when she’s not busy rehearsing or performing?

“I do have a lot of downtime which helps me push to do an assignment or read a book,” she says. “I really love biking and want to get a bike so I can do it more. I also love to knit and crochet. It balances my mind.”

If you go:
“The Nutcracker”
Dec. 8 to Dec. 31
Various times
The Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.
paballet.org