Laurel ballerinas will dance in the holidays in ‘The Nutcracker’

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Photos And Story By Jaci Webb
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Elizabeth Cutwright and Claire Foote, of Laurel, have been dancing various roles in ‘The Nutcracker’ since elementary school. This year, they will perform together in the Snow Scene, and Waltz of the Flowers. Foote will also dance in the Merleton scene.

Elizabeth Cutwright and Claire Foote, of Laurel, have been dancing various roles in ‘The Nutcracker’ since elementary school. This year, they will perform together in the Snow Scene, and Waltz of the Flowers. Foote will also dance in the Merleton scene.

‘The Nutcracker’ is one of the most cherished holiday traditions, and two Laurel ballerinas have been part of that tradition for many years.

Claire Foote, 15, and Elizabeth Cutwright, 14, will both be dancing in the Snow Scene and the Waltz of the Flowers when “The Nutcracker” is performed at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings Friday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 27. Foote will also be in the Merleton scene.

The two friends have grown up together on the Alberta Bair Theater stage, dancing their way through Tchaikovsky’s fanciful score. Foote was 8 and Cutwright was 7 when they took on the role of Sugar Babes, the fuzzy brown bears that get everybody in the audience to “ooh and ahh” over the dancers. Then it was on to being Candy Canes, and in 2020, the two friends got to play Clara, one of the main characters of the story. Unfortunately, it was the year of the COVID pandemic and the performances were streamed that year instead of being in person.

“The Nutcracker” score tells the story of young Clara, who dreams that her nutcracker turns into a prince, and they travel together to the land of sweets, seeing many wondrous sights, including the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The ballet is performed with the San Diego Ballet Company, and includes many local dancers, and the Billings Symphony Orchestra playing the Tchaikovsky score live.

“It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love performing it and having everyone come watch,” Foote said.

Cutwright adds, “It’s definitely fun to perform with all the professional dancers. I love being with my friends and feeling the magic of the scenes.”

Betty Loos, long-time director of the School of Classical Ballet, grew up in Laurel, and has been working with the Billings Symphony Orchestra since the 1970s producing the ballet.

Foote and Cutwright have been dancing since they were in elementary school and they have now risen to being among the top dancers in the Billings dance studio. They dance in toe shoes, requiring hours of training to learn the technique. It can be nerve racking on performance night because there are so many other dancers and several costume changes. It’s also thrilling to perform on the big stage to a packed theater. All the instructions that Loos has worked on with the girls is committed to memory and it plays in their heads when they are dancing, the girls said.

“Back stage, I get nervous, but as soon as you’re on stage, you smile, put your feet out, and hold head up and your core in,” Cutwright said.

The Snow Scene at the end of Act I has snow falling from the top of the theater and the dancers swirling around in it. It’s a lovely scene, but can also be a tricky one if too much snow falls, making for a slippery floor.

For Foote and Cutwright, dancing is special. It’s when they can let the cares of their day fade away and just be together with friends moving to the music. Their advice to other young girls or boys who want to dance -- go for it.

“If you love it, keep going, keep doing what you like,” Foote said.

Having family and friends in the audience watching them makes the performance even more meaningful, the girls said. Cutwright said her parents and brother and sister will be there and her grandfather from Stevensville may also be there. Cutwright said she will have her parents and sister and cousins and even her grandmother from West Virginia in the audience.

“The Nutcracker” is a beautiful way to begin the holidays.

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