Dance stars have plenty to celebrate

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 15:48 03/12/2012
ballet
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
Jenifer McManus.

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The Nutcracker Suite - a Christmas ballet that has captivated audiences around the world since 1892 - was brought to life by two of Invercargill's most promising young dancers at the weekend.

Jenifer McManus, 15, starred as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Grace Madoc, 13, danced the role of Clara, the young girl who is lured into the magical world of a toy nutcracker soldier, given to her as a Christmas gift by a magician.

The ballet was first performed in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, but gained a resurgence in popularity as a Christmas production during the 1960s.

This was the first time either of the dancers from Shelley Coutts Dance Academy in Invercargill had been in The Nutcracker, but both dreamed of dancing in the Tchaikovsky-scored ballet from an early age.

The girls have another reason to celebrate this month. Long hours of rehearsal combined with talent have sent Jenifer and Grace to the final of the junior Genee Dance Challenge, which takes place at the St James Theatre in Wellington from December 6 to 15.

This is the first time the national Genee Dance Challenge will be linked in with the Genee International Ballet Competition, as New Zealand is hosting the international part of the competition for older dancers.

Academy owner Shelley Coutts - who had taught them from the beginning - said they had worked hard to make it into the final.

"They have both spent unlimited hours strengthening their performances both inside and outside the studio."

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