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Becoming Clara

Lake Middle School seventh grader Gretta Nathe will portray the role of Clara in Ballet Minnesota’s production of “The Nutcracker” during the afternoon performance on Dec. 21. During the other performances, she will perform as a Porcelain Doll and a Reed Flute. (Submitted photo)

Lake Middle School seventh grader Gretta Nathe has been dancing with Classical Ballet Academy for the past six years and her dream has always been the same – to one day play Clara.

Nathe’s dream will be coming true later this month when she portrays the iconic character in Ballet Minnesota’s annual production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” at the O’Shaughnessy theater, running Dec. 20-22 at St. Catherine University.

“It’s been a dream come true, really,” Nathe said. “Everyone wants to be Clara because she is just so beautiful and she’s usually one of the best dancers.”

Nathe will perform during the 2 p.m. performance on Dec. 21.

“The Nutcracker,” which Ballet Minnesota debuted in 1989, tells the story of a little girl named Clara who can’t fall asleep after a Christmas Eve party at her house. Clara dreams herself into a world where toys become larger than life. This is where she meets the Nutcracker Prince who defends her against the Mouse King.

“It’s a warm and fuzzy show,” Nathe said. “It’s just so traditional and the music is really beautiful.”

Following their footsteps

When Nathe first started looking at joining dance, it was her daycare supervisor who suggested she and her mom Kristi look at Classical Ballet Academy.

“From the first time I stepped foot in there I loved it,” Nathe said. “It was amazing to watch all the older girls – they were just so beautiful.”

During her time at Classical Ballet Academy, Nathe has appeared in many productions, including past productions of the “The Nutcracker” where she has performed as a soldier, an angel, a mouse, a Motherginger child and a German Doll.

While watching the performances, Nathe said she was in awe of the older dancers – specifically Clara – so to be able to follow in their footsteps is unbelievable.

“I know I’ve wanted to be Clara since I was really little,” she said. “I just looked up to all the girls who played her before me.

“Now that I am Clara it reminds me of when I was little and I used to watch the older girls in awe and now I’m the older girl, so it’s just funny to think about.”

The role of Clara is being shared by Nathe and three other ballerinas since it is such a demanding role.

When Nathe is not performing as the lead character, she will perform as a Porcelain Doll and a Reed Flute.

Nathe said she is rehearsing about 30 hours per week in preparation for “The Nutcracker.”

“I actually get more nervous about rehearsals than I am about the performances,” she said. “I get a little nervous before performances, but I’m just so happy – I love being on stage.”

Nathe said the Clara role will help elevate her dancing ability, which in turn will help her with her professional dancing dreams.

“It’s one of those little steps to becoming a professional,” she said.

Nathe said she hopes to one day dance with the Boston or the New York ballets.

Nathe said she is very excited to bring Clara to life on stage.

“It’s fun to kind of have to put yourself in her shoes,” she said. “She really loves this nutcracker toy and it’s up to you to jump into her shoes and bring her to life.”

Ballet Minnesota’s production of “The Nutcracker” will run Dec. 20 and Dec. 21-22 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy theater at St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Ave. in St. Paul. Gretta Nathe will perform as Clara during the 2 p.m. Dec. 21 performance.

Tickets can be purchased online at, by calling 651-690-6700 or at the ticket office, which is located at the theater.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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