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Local girls earn roles in International Youth Ballet production of “The Nutcracker”

Pictured above Avalon Kirby (left) and Alexandra Gray (right) will be “Ballerina Dolls” in this year’s production of
“The Nutcracker”.

Article and photos by Carin R. Kirkegaard

This December, eight-year-old girls, Alexandra Gray and Jessica Kirby will be performing in the International Youth Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker”.

The girls began their dancing career at the ripe old age of two and have been with the International Youth Ballet for the past three years. This will be the girl’s third production of “The Nutcracker” with the company.

The International Youth Ballet stands out from typical dance companies because of the caliber of training offered to the dance students. Dancers can expect to be taught by professional dancers and have a production produced by professional choreographers.

According to Mark Carlson, Artistic Director of the company, “The public is expecting to see something of a higher level. They are not just going to a recital. They are going to an actual performance.”

The level of performances produced by the company is definitely noticed by the dancers, “I feel happy when I am performing for a big audience and I know I am entertaining them,” said Kirby.

As a pre-professional dance studio the dancers put in hours of practice for each production. During the “Nutcracker” season Gray and Kirby, as part of the youngest dancing troupe, have logged more than five hours on the weekends and another four and a half hours of technique training during the week. The older dancers practice 12 hours on the weekends and another 16 hours during the week.

“Sometimes ballet hurts, but it’s worth it to work hard because I’m going to get my pointe shoes soon,” continued Kirby.

The amount of time spent at the studio doesn’t always seem like work. According to Gray, “Its not really hard. You just have to focus. I like the teaching techniques.”

The dance company’s name represents two important facets of the school. The first is involved in the teaching of ballet. The school teaches techniques from an international base. Techniques from an American, Russian, French and Danish context are all taught.

As a result, dancers from the International Youth Ballet are placed in some of the top dance companies both in the United States and around the world. Many of the dancers even receive scholarships.

The company produces two shows each year, “The Nutcracker” and then a spring production. The upcoming spring show will be “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

The school is known for the quality of the performance not only in the talent of the dancers, but also in the costume and stage design. Seeing a performance by the International Youth Ballet is a chance to see the “future stars of tomorrow, today,” says Sandra Carlson, Associate Artistic Director.

To learn more about the International Youth Ballet visit

Members of the “Little Dolls” pose during rehearsal for the International Youth Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker”. Performances will be held at the Gates Concert Hall in the Newman Center at the University of Denver.



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