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Entranced by Dance

Claire Kedzierski plays a “plum” role in The Nutcracker



The winter holidays are here, which can only mean one thing: a production of The Nutcracker is coming to town and there’s a strong possibility your child will want to attend a performance. Or be in one. This famous seasonal ballet made its debut in 1892 set to a lively and memorable score by Russian composer Pytor Tchaikovsky, and has been delighting audiences ever since. 

Aside from the wonder of toys coming to life and the magical world of the Land of Sweets, what’s extra special about The Nutcracker is that dancers of all ages and levels of experience can participate. Young children who are barely tall enough to go on a ride at Disney, can start out as a Bunny or Toy Soldier and work their up to more substantial roles. Even though she doesn’t appear until the second act, the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy has been referred to as “the ultimate tutu and tiara role,” because she performs a show-stopping pas de deux with the Prince. The role is coveted by aspiring ballerinas, everywhere.

Wilton High School freshman, Claire Kedzierski will be dancing the part for the second time in the upcoming production at the WHS Little Theater this December. Now in her seventh year performing in The Nutcracker, Claire has previously played, Angel, Marzipan, Sweets, Snow, and Clara. However, long before she fell in love with the famous ballet, Claire was entranced by dance. Her mother, Denise, brought then two-year-old Claire along to a play date and got to know fellow Mom, Christine Titus, owner of Wilton’s Conservatory of Dance. “I don’t think I would have started her so young had I not known Christine,” says Denise. “But Claire was always focused, even at that early age.” 

Today, that focus and passion haven’t wavered. Claire is still dancing. She takes a variety of classes at the Conservatory where approximately 300 students pass through the studio doors every year. Titus has a simple, holistic approach to dance. “I’ve been teaching here for eleven years and I can count on one hand how many students went on to be professional dancers. What we do at my studio is about life lessons.”

Unlike many children who require coaxing, Claire has never needed to be persuaded to show up for dance class. Although ballet is her favorite, she also studies jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, acro (acrobatic dancing), and hip-hop. On average she dances four hours a day, five days a week. She tried soccer and lacrosse but it didn’t stick. “I was so bad,” Claire recalls with a laugh. “I hated that white board where the coach was always drawing plays and everyone’s positions. I was always in the wrong one! Sports just never clicked in my brain like dance did.”

And click it did. Claire was barely three when she performed in her first recital. She still remembers playing the role of a flower who had to be rescued from tumbling off-stage while in the midst of a pirouette. Today she moves around the dance floor with ease and grace, coupled with seemingly effortless energy. She explains how dance styles are distinguished from one another. “Each dance discipline has its own specific moves and techniques, but you can do whatever you want that fits with the music.”

“There’s a reason why people say dance like no one’s watching,” explains David Sonatore a Wilton psychotherapist. “Our bodies are the containers of emotion, along with our balance, rhythm, and movement. Our brain wants us to work collaboratively and dance helps us to do this.” 

In addition to recitals, Claire participates in competitions throughout the area along with fellow dancers from the Conservatory. The well-known ones like “Turn It Up,”  “Celebration,” and “Take Center Stage” post their schedules well in advance and often require entry fees. Then there are costumes, travel, and often overnight expenses for the participants. Awards are given—the Diamond being the highest—and the judges provide taped comments of their observations and corrections recorded during the dancers’ performances.

Claire’s parents, Tom and Denise, say there is pressure to do well, but they’re proud that Claire has remained grounded and kept her passion for dance in perspective with the rest of her life. Long term, Claire doesn’t see herself becoming a professional dancer, but says she will always love the art. She would like to become an anesthesiologist and as Denise comments with aplomb, “Maybe she’ll just end up being a dancing doctor.” Now that could be another “plum” role for this talented and disciplined young woman.

 

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