“More than holiday tradition
It’s not uncommon for kids to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
For one Inver Grove Heights family, ballet shoes are making those footsteps.
Brie Meyer will be helping daughters Mia, 5, and Drew, 4, with their mice costumes before taking her seat to watch them perform in “The Classic Nutcracker” later this month at O’Shaughnessy auditorium on the St. Catherine University campus.
A little over two decades ago, it was Meyer adjusting her own costume before she performed the role of Clara in the 1992 production.
“It’s fun to be on the other side and watch it,” Meyer says.
She began dance lessons when she was 3, but didn’t start focusing solely on ballet until fourth grade. It was one of Meyer’s dance teachers who said she was really talented and pointed her in the direction of the Ballet Minnesota Company.
After college, Meyer was a member of the professional dance company for two years.
A couple years ago, Meyer noticed her daughters would not stop dancing around the house, so she started looking at dance schools.
She says she visited other schools thinking her daughters just wanted to dance, but she kept thinking back to her own positive, childhood experiences, she decided she just “couldn’t take them somewhere else.”
Now, both Mia and Drew are part of Classical Ballet Academy, the dance school their mother was part of when she was a child.
“They didn’t even know I was in ballet because I didn’t want to pressure them; not that I don’t want them do dance; not that I don’t like it. I just didn’t want them to feel like they had to because Mom did it,” Meyer says.
Even though Mia and Drew are now in ballet classes, Meyer laughs as she says there is still plenty of dancing going on around the house. They turn music on and have dance parties. The girls even “dance” in the car while strapped in their seats.
Mia was in “The Classic Nutcracker” last year as a blind mouse. She says performing on stage is her favorite part of ballet.
“I’m a cheese mouse this year,” Mia says.
There was a scary moment for Mia her first year. At one point when the mice are on stage, rats jump out. When the rats appeared, Mia says she “ran the wrong way right through the middle.”
This will be Drew’s first time being part of the show, but the 4-year-old says confidently that she isn’t nervous.
“I’m proud that I’m doing it cause I love ballet,” Drew says, adding that her favorite part is spinning.
An enduring legacy
Andrew Rist, artistic director, says it’s amazing to now have young performers who are the children of those he worked with previously in the production.
“It’s wonderful. It also makes you realize how long you’ve been doing this,” Rist says with a chuckle.
When Mia and Drew are on stage, Meyer says everything comes flooding back. “Memories start coming back, and you wish you were on stage doing it.”
Even though they only have practice one day a week, Meyer says there are still the days the girls don’t want to go.
“Every time they [begin a rehearsal], they’re fine and love it,” Meyer says.
The decision to stick with ballet is up to Mia and Drew. Meyer says as a parent, “you kind of get an idea of things your kids might be good at.” Mia is not a sports child, but rather dance, singing and theater, Meyer says.
Drew is showing some sports abilities, Meyer says, but she is always moving and will start dancing whenever she hears music.
“If they want to do it, I will support them. If they find something else, that is fine, too,” Meyer says.
She hopes her daughters learn some of the same lessons she did from being part of the ballet world. “I always loved the grace, the art and beauty of ballet. I hope that my children learn the dedication, strength and confidence ballet has taught me.”
A large cast
The magic of “The Classic Nutcracker” is brought to life by a cast that includes nationally known adult dancers in feature roles, Ballet Minnesota Company veterans and apprentices, members of Minneapolis’s Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and students from Classical Ballet Academy.
Student roles range from the starring turn of Clara to the round-bellied mice, like Drew and Mia.
Lively sets further the magic with a Christmas tree and grandfather clock that grows before audience eyes. Sparks fly in the battle between the Rat King and Nutcracker, and snow falls gently on snow fairies emerging form the enchanted Land of Snow.
Rist says each year they try to improve their presentation of the ballet.
“We’ve added sets. We’ve changed parts of the choreography. It’s still very much the same ‘Nutcracker,’” Rist says. “It’s an absolutely beautiful production.”
Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.”