The Tallahassee Ballet’s 2023 Nutcracker performance is on point, with Maclay junior Morgan Manrique as a vital dancer. Since the age of three, Manrique has been pursuing her passion for ballet, and each year The Tallahassee Ballet goes through an intricate process to put together the performance for hundreds of viewers. Manrique reveals the procedures that the dancers take to create the magical Christmas story. Behind the curtain, the dancers use artistry and strength to perform the most popular Christmas ballet. 

“I was put into ballet and soccer at the same time,” Manrique said. “But I decided to keep going with ballet because it makes me happy.”

Manrique is a dancer for the Tallahassee Ballet Pre-Professional division, which is an apprenticeship with the company that allows the ballerinas to pursue a profession later on. Outside of Nutcracker season, the ballerinas have class three days a week, for an hour and a half each. But when Nutcracker season begins in late August, the dancers eat, sleep and breathe ballet. 

To compose the Nutcracker performance, hefty amounts of time and effort are needed to prepare for the show. To begin the preparations, the dancers audition to see which roles they will play. The auditions consist of a choreographer giving the dancers choreography, and putting the dancers in groups to decide who will play certain roles. This year, The Tallahassee Ballet took a different approach to auditions, in which the dancers sent in videos of themselves dancing since the choreographer was out of town.

Once the ballerinas receive their roles, the rehearsals begin. Ballerinas rehearse for forty hours each week, with four-hour rehearsals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and seven-to-eight-hour rehearsals on the weekends. After Manrique goes to school and work, she goes straight to ballet. This rehearsal schedule lasts from late Aug. to Dec., which is a prolonged time period. After months of rehearsals, dress rehearsals and Theatre Week begin. Dress rehearsals occur in the facility, where the ballerinas put on costumes and makeup for the first time, and do a mock performance to see if there are any issues. Theatre Week is synonymous with Tech Week, where the dancers navigate stage blocking, lights and sound. After all the preparations are complete, it’s showtime for Manrique and her fellow ballerinas.

The holiday classic comes to the stage this year at Ruby Diamond Theatre on Dec. 16 at both 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. The two-hour performance follows Clara on her magical journey with the Nutcracker. During the show, Manrique is constantly performing the roles of a demi-soloist for Spanish, a violet, an adult party guest and a dancer in the snow quartet. For Manrique, the Spanish section is the most exciting part. 

“It’s very exciting because it’s a lot of movement and it’s very short,” Manrique said. “My dream senior role would be the lead Spanish.” 

 During the ballet, Manrique and the other ballerinas get to showcase all of their hard work. Manrique remarks on her experiences performing. 

“Performing is a big part of ballet because it’s different from rehearsals,” Manrique said. “Mostly because in rehearsals you don’t have makeup, you don’t have your hair done and you don’t have costumes on. But once you get on stage, you know people are watching you. It’s an impressive moment.” 

Along with the effortless-looking choreography, the dancers float across the stage to the music of a live orchestra to create a phenomenal experience for the audience. But to create an acceptable experience, the shows can be difficult as they are two hours long, and Manrique is in multiple intricate sections with costume changes. 

“It gets defeating, but in the end it’s pretty rewarding,” Manrique said. 

Family and friends of Manrique take pleasure in seeing her express passion and dedication on the stage. People who know Manrique on a personal level know she has a powerful drive when she wants to accomplish something. That drive is visible when she performs on stage.

“My favorite part of watching her perform is just seeing her pull it off because she works very hard and she’s very determined in her training,” senior Jack Grooters said. “Knowing that she’s nervous up there, but being as confident as she can be is always very empowering to see. It makes me proud because she tells me all of her progress.”

Watching Manrique use her strength, artistry and effortlessness is a gift to any viewer in the audience. 

To be a successful ballerina in The Nutcracker, a dancer needs discipline, energy and talent. Manrique exhibits all of these factors in her performances. Outside of The Nutcracker, Manrique will continue to pursue ballet and considers incorporating ballet into her adult life. Throughout the process of pursuing ballet, Manrique has attended numerous intensives and earned scholarships to make connections with triumphant professional ballet companies all over the country. During Nutcracker season, Manrique’s talent and months of hard work are exhibited to create an astounding spectacle. When the time comes, be sure to attend the timeless story and watch Manrique dance at Ruby Diamond Theatre in the Nutcracker performance.