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Student Stars Make Richmond Ballet’s “Nutcracker” Sparkle for the Holidays

Thirteen-year-old Hallee Wulff and 15-year-old Darius Mealy are in the midst of their three-week run of Richmond Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

This marks Wulff’s fourth year with the show. She’s been a cook, ginger child, and a party child. This year she will dance as a sugar plum fairy attendant. “I like being part of a big production,” she says. “I love being out on stage and I love to dance. It’s fun to be part of something so big and so special.”

Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker

Mealy, who is a 6-year veteran of the holiday show, danced as a party child for his first few years and was a Chinese attendant last year. He will re-create that role again this year. “The Nutcracker is so engaging,” he says. “It’s amazing to be able to tell the story.”

Dancing has been a joy for him. “It gets your mind off of things going on outside,” he says. “Once you step in the studio you lose everything that happens at school and at home.”

His greatest challenge is trying to live up to his own expectations. “You have to try and go above and beyond in your dancing. That’s the most challenging aspect for me,” he says.

Both Wulff and Mealy are students of The School of Richmond Ballet. The Ballet has been using students from the school for The Nutcracker since it started the professional production in 1980. This year’s production will feature nearly 190 students from the school and from Minds in Motion, the Ballet’s outreach program.

Mealy admits he sometimes gets nervous before going on stage. “I don’t want to say it’s a lot of pressure but it’s a lot to know the choreography,” he says.

His part in the show requires him to carry a dragon around on stage and that can be a bit challenging. “I have to move at a steady pace. That means having a good level of endurance and a lot of strength,” he says.

Albeit challenging at times, Mealy enjoys being on stage. “I was always the showoff in my family,” he says. “I’m the energetic one. I think it’s fun to brighten someone’s day and make them laugh.”

Both Wulff and Mealy who are members of the school of the Ballet’s Ensemble Group are hoping to also dance in the Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty from February 9 through 11. The ballet will cast roles in The Sleeping Beauty from that performing group.

Wulff has gained more than expertise at the school, she says. “I have made lots of friendships.”

The Richmond Ballet’s Nutcracker Goes to the Dogs

The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 23. The ballet has added a performance at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21. The ballet will partner with the Richmond SPCA for two Pupcracker performances: Dec. 16 and 21 at 2 p.m. Dogs from the SPCA will make cameos on stage and audience members can meet them during intermission and have the opportunity to adopt them on the spot. Over the past seven years the SPCA has adopted over 34 dogs during the Pupcracker performances.

For showtimes and tickets, visit Richmond Ballet.

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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