Watching a performance of "The Nutcracker" during Christmastime is a dream come true for many aspiring ballerinas.
The BSA, which performs "The Nutcracker" every year, is collaborating for the first time with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Institute College of Art and the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric for the holiday classic that will showcase 120 students from the school.
Performances will take place at The Lyric in Baltimore 2 and 7:30 p.m. today (Friday) and Saturday. Tickets, ranging in price from $28 to $60, can be purchased at ticketmaster.com.
"It's like a dream come true," Shelby, 17, said about her role as Sugar Plum Fairy. "It's amazing because ever since freshman year I've looked up to being the Sugar Plum Fairy."
Shelby, a senior dance major at Baltimore School for the Arts, commutes every day from her home in Bel Air to the school with her aunt who works nearby.
"I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and don't get home sometimes until 7:30 p.m.," she said about her schedule.
With rehearsals nearly every day gearing up for her big performance, Shelby has little time to do anything other than school work and dance.
Academics takes up half of her school day and dance the other half, dancing on average three and a half hours every day, not including rehearsals for five to seven hours.
Shelby has danced for the vast majority of her young life, starting at 3 years old at a local dance studio, and learned about the art school through her teacher, who also prepared her for the audition.
When she got in, "I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do," she said.
The dancer is thrilled to be performing in her dream role along with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in such a prestigious space.
MICA, she added, is doing the scenery.
"It's just a great experience because when we first walked out on the stage it [was] so much bigger than our school stage where we usually have our performances," Shelby said. "It was breathtaking."
The students have worked on this weekend's performance since August, rehearing every day with Boston Ballet's Executive Director Barry Hughson, who has choreographed the school's production for many years.
The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Shelby explained, comes in when Clara, in her dream, makes it to the land of the sweets where Sugar Plum reigns and leads Clara through her kingdom with different dances.
"Personally, I love the Sugar Plum variation when she dances by herself," Shelby said about her favorite part. "The music is really pretty."
Shelby is looking at three professional dance programs and companies as her next step.
"I would love to be a professional ballet dancer," she explained, naming the School of American Ballet and the Boston Ballet as possibilities.
Auditions will begin after the new year starts.
"It's hard as a dancer because once you leave where you are and audition for these professional programs, you start from the beginning as a core [dancer] and have to work your way up to be a principle dancer," Shelby said. "My goal is to be a principle dancer at a well-known company."
As long as she gets to dance, though, Shelby will be happy because, as she simply put it, "dancing is my life."