For Dallas Kinsley and Eliza Dent, performing has always been the highlight of spending hours upon hours in the dance studio.
This weekend, the high school seniors will be up front and center at The Coliseum in Daytona Beach for Ormond Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” premiering at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17. Ormond Ballet, which prides itself as a dance training center, is presenting four performances of the traditional Christmas ballet. “The Nutcracker” tells the story of Clara Stahlbaum, a girl who is just coming of age and receives a nutcracker from her mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer.
Ormond Ballet is telling the story through both classical and contemporary choreography, including a grand pas de deux featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.
Kinsley, 18, is playing Uncle Drosselmeyer, and Dent, 17, is playing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Both are ready to step into their roles. They have each been dancing since they were 3 years old.
“Acting is a very fun thing for me,” said Kinsley, a homeschooled student. “It’s always been great to become a character and really use your movement to tell a story.”
You can bring out any kind of emotion through dance, Dent added, which she said is fun to do for audiences.
“I think being able to step into a whole new persona, it really is entirely separate from anything you could be doing already,” said Dent, who attends Seabreeze High School. “Once the moment starts, you’re set to be your character.”
Ormond Ballet Artistic Director Michelle Boutros said Kinsley and Dent are both “extremely hard workers” and have been since she first met them when they were around 12 years old at another ballet studio.
“They’re really some of the best students I’ve ever taught,” Boutros said. “They’re very receptive. They’re easy to correct. They absorb everything that I give them.”
Teaching students like Kinsley and Dent is not only a pleasure, Boutros said, but it inspires her as a teacher too.
Kinsley said Boutros tells them things like that a lot to help keep them motivated, and it feels good.
“I’ve struggled with hearing that kind of stuff, never believed in myself, but it’s definitely helping,” Kinsley said.
Boutros said she aims to focus a lot on her students’ mental health. They have a group chat called “Mindfulness Self-Care Queens” where she sends them motivational quotes, jokes and dance techniques. It’s important to her that her dancers feel like they’re in a safe space even as they’re pushed to improve their dancing.
When it came to “The Nutcracker,” Boutros knew that she wanted to cast Kinsley in a unique role. Drosselmeyer is typically played by a man, but Kinsley is one of the studio’s best dancers, and as a senior this year, Boutros wanted to feature her.
Dent playing the Sugar Plum Fairy was a natural fit.
“I’m sure everyone was like, ‘Oh Eliza is going to be Sugar Plum Fairy,’” Boutros said. “I don’t think that was a big surprise.”
“We all knew,” Kinsley said with a smile.
Dent said one of the challenges of playing an iconic ballet character is the pressure to make that part stand out for audiences.
“They have more expectations for the more well-known parts,” she said.
Two years ago Ormond Ballet presented a contemporary piece called “The Gathering,” an original work by Boutros. The artistic director said it was a mature piece, and watching Dent dance in it made an impression.
“That was one of the first times I was like, ‘Oh, she’s going somewhere,’” she said.
After graduating high school, both girls hope to dance professionally — Dent with a ballet company, and Kinsley with a contemporary dance company.
Both Kinsley and Dent “are in it to win it,” Boutros said. Ormond Ballet is in its third season now, and one day, Boutros hopes to start a ballet company under the name.
With 65 students, one of Boutros’ goals is that beyond dance, they are a “leadership academy.”
“I really love the change in the students,” she said. “When you have that consistent training, and not just technical training but the expectations of your teachers and your directors — when it’s consistent ... it creates that safe space that I mentioned,” Boutros said. “So then they improve so much faster.”