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Red Wing ballerina becomes star of 'Nutcracker'

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When Ruth Sevlie was 6 years old, she and her family saw a classic holiday performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Sheldon Theatre. Now twice that age, the Red Wing resident is about to be the star of the ballet.

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She heard about the opportunity to audition while taking summer ballet classes at the Ashley Ballet Arts Academy, which is putting on the production.

"I've always wanted to be in 'The Nutcracker' ballet or just the ballet, but I was always too young. So then when I had the chance to be in, I was like, 'I want to do this,'" Ruth said. "It's just very fun and it's very imaginative."

The 12-year-old snagged the coveted role of Clara, a young child who falls asleep Christmas Eve and dreams up a magical scenario complete with a nutcracker prince, dancing snowflakes and sugar plum fairies.

"I really wanted to get the part," Ruth said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to because there are other girls that are really good."

Still, Ruth earned the opportunity to portray Clara and be one of the leading characters in "The Nutcracker."

"It's kind of one of those dream come trues for a little girl," Ruth's mom, Tami, said.

With seven years of ballet experience already under her belt at such a young age, it's a dream she's worked hard to achieve. Ruth comes from a family of dancers and began following in her mother's footsteps at age 5.

Tami has been well versed in ballet since she was about the same age and she began teaching the art about 10 years ago at Fusion Dance in Red Wing. It was there that Tami's daughters, Hope and Ruth, developed and fine-tuned many of their dance skills.

"It's so awesome when you have something you can do with your kids together that you both enjoy," Tami said. "It's been wonderful."

Tami will continue sharing ballet with her daughter as she joins Ruth in the ABAA performance of "The Nutcracker." Ruth's dad, Joe, is in on the action as well.

"He's a great sport," Tami said of her husband. "He thinks it's fun to do things together."

Tami and Joe will play the Stahlbaums, Clara's mother and father. They are minor roles, but this helps nonetheless in making Ruth's transition from offstage to on quite simple.

"I can act better with them because it's my parents, so it's natural for me," Ruth said, also mentioning that having things come naturally has been helpful to avoid getting nervous about the live performances.

Rather than focus on nerves, Ruth puts her attention and energy into every step she takes onstage. With nearly two dozen dances performed in "The Nutcracker," there's a lot of learning, memorizing and mastering to be done by everyone involved. The large amount of effort a dancer puts in is exactly what helps make their performance seem so effortless to a member of the audience.

"To me, I look at the steps and it looks hard, but your goal is to make it look really graceful and really easy," Ruth explained.

A few months of Monday, Tuesday and Saturday practices and rehearsals have helped Ruth get comfortable with everything that's required of her to portray Clara. All that's left is to hone her skills before the big show.

"I've learned all my parts so now it's just perfecting them and cleaning them," she said.

Ruth joins a large cast that includes dancers as young as 3 and 4 years old. Together they will entertain children and adults alike in two separate performances of "The Nutcracker" at 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 15.

If you go...

What: "The Nutcracker"

When: 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday Dec. 15

Where: Hopkins High School auditorium, 2400 Lindbergh Drive, Minnetonka, Minn.

Cost: $14 for adults, $10 for children ages 12 and younger

More info: 952-220-8862 or www.ashleyballetarts.com

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