Writer / Janelle Morrison Photography / Courtesy of IBC
The magic of Indiana’s premier “Nutcracker” tradition, presented by the Indiana Ballet Conservatory (IBC), returns this holiday season. IBC is proud to welcome back its guest dancer, the acclaimed principal dancer from the Boston Ballet, Lasha Khozashvili. The company is excited to be celebrating its seventh season with Khozashvili performing in IBC’s homage to the artistry of Vasily Vainonen.
The original “Nutcracker” ballet debuted over 100 years ago in Russia. Produced by IBC Founding Artistic Director, Alyona Yakovleva-Randall, this production is based on the 1934 choreography of Vainonen.
Yakovleva-Randall is a highly educated, highly acclaimed ballet dancer, choreographer and artistic director. She has a brilliant career of her own that began in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2005, she was named Artistic Director of the Russian Ballet Academy of Indiana and the Indiana Ballet Company. Yakovleva-Randall collaborated with her artistic staff and business and legal teams to form the Indiana Ballet Conservatory in 2010. Yakovleva-Randall’s students have won numerous awards at competitions throughout the years. Her company has recently expanded its programs to include classes for ages 3-5 and 6-9 as part of a collaboration with the Russian School of Indiana.
Many of the young dancers left their home states to move to Carmel. And most agreed that the winter was their least favorite thing, but the consensus was that it is a wonderful city for them to come and stay in while training at IBC.
“It used to be that I would not let our students perform the roles in the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ act because of the high level of skill those roles demand to properly perform the techniques,” Yakovleva-Randall explained. “It was only a few years ago that I began letting the students perform the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ along with one of the world’s most talented dancers in the world right now, Lasha Khozashvili. He is a dear friend, and we have a wonderful relationship with him. He is like a member of our family, and we look forward to the artistry and professionalism that he brings during his performance in IBC’s production of ‘The Nutcracker.’”
Khozashvili, the acclaimed principal dancer with Boston Ballet, has been described by The Los Angeles Times as “gorgeous” with “youth, charm and spontaneity gilding the choreography and making it seem inspired improvisation.” He will be returning to IBC, dancing the role of the “Prince” alongside IBC’s Professional Training Program students.
Khozashvili said, “It feels like I am coming back to my family you see once a year for the holidays. Coming back to be with the IBC has become a tradition for me. Every year, I am performing with new partners and dancers that are students of IBC. I enjoy watching the progression of these students and to see how they are growing with Alyona’s excellent coaching. It makes me happy to come back and see how much the students have grown.”
IBC is proud to highlight three of its students who will be performing the role of the “Sugar Plum Fairy” in this year’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
Originally from Michigan, Quinn Starner is a 15-year-old, second year Pre-Professional Day Program student of IBC and recent recipient of the prestigious Junior Grand Prix award at the 2017 American Dance Competition | International Ballet Competition. She is also a first-place winner at Youth America Grand Prix and World Ballet Art Competition Grand Prix, a former finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance” and has over 86,000 followers and fans worldwide.
After performing as “Waltz Soloist” and other roles last year, this will be Quinn’s first year performing as the “Sugar Plum Fairy” in “The Nutcracker.”
“I moved to and live here in Carmel with my mom, so I can train,” Starner said. “[IBC] has some of the world’s best teachers here. They have taught me so much and are just incredible teachers. I have been dancing for about 13 have been performing in productions of ‘The Nutcracker’ since I was a little girl. It’s been my dream to grow up and perform the role of ‘Princess Masha/Sugar Plum Fairy,’ so I am so excited to finally do that role.”
Alexandra Manuel, 13 years old, has been training with the IBC Faculty since she was 8. A student of IBC’s Pre-Professional Day Program, she won first place at the Youth America Grand Prix regionals in both Classical and Contemporary in 2017. In 2016, she won the Hope Award, the highest honor given to the student with the most potential. She also earned Silver medals in both categories at the ADC|IBC 2017. Alexandra has competed as a soloist at the prestigious YAGP International NYC Finals for the last three years in a row where she has been awarded several scholarships to top ballet schools around the world, including the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco and the Royal Ballet School in London.
She was also named 2016 5 to Watch (promising ballerinas) by Brown Girls Do ballet, an organization which promotes and supports girls of color in ballet. Having performed the role of “Little Masha” when she was 10, Alexandra’s journey is now coming full circle as she prepares for the role of “Princess Masha/Sugar Plum Fairy” this year.
“When I was 8 years old and moved to Carmel, it was during one of my first classes here at IBC that I saw one of the older dancers performing,” Manuel recalled. “She was so beautiful. I wanted to dance just like her. I knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work and determination, but I wanted to get to where she was one day.”
Last, but not least, 17-year-old Ricako Suzuki is in her second year of training with IBC’s Pre-Professional Day Program. Japanese-born but most recently from Texas, Ricako has received Top 12 honors at the Youth America Grand Prix regional competitions and represented IBC at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida, in 2017. This will be Ricako’s second year performing as the “Sugar Plum Fairy” at IBC, and she is thrilled to be reprising the role and having another opportunity to dance alongside Khozashvili.
“I didn’t really start doing ballet seriously until three years ago,” Suzuki said. “I wanted to be a violinist before, but now, I’m completely focused on dance. It’s what I love to do. I came to IBC because I really wanted the Vaganova-based training, and IBC provides that [curriculum] here. Also, when I came here for the Summer Intensive program, I really enjoyed the teachers and the atmosphere here. It really fits me.”
For information on the performance dates and to purchase tickets, visit indianaballetconservatory.org.