Grace Lavan, a seventh-grader at Cloquet Middle School, and Natalya Kacer, a sixth-grade student at Wrenshall Elementary School, are seasoned dancers in the Minnesota Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" this weekend.

The girls have been dancing for nine years with the School of the Minnesota Ballet and have been in the show about five years.

In the past, they have played a variety of parts, including a caroler, cookie and street urchin.

"It's not a lot of work once you get used to it," Lavan said.

The dancers practice every Saturday beginning in October. The final week, they practice every day until opening night.

"The Nutcracker" takes place in Manhattan's Central Park area about 100 years ago. There are opulent townhomes, brightly colored costumes, plenty of dance scenes and of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

"It's really fun and magical," Kacer said excitedly. She and Lavan perform as a soldier and in the street scene this year.

Four other Carlton County students will also dance in "The Nutcracker."

Presley Torrance, a seventh-grade student at Cloquet Middle School, appears in the street scene in all performances.

Cadence Niemi, a fourth-grade student at Washington Elementary in Cloquet, performs as the Mother Ginger child in all of the performances.

Madison Slygh, a sixth-grader at Winterquist Elementary School in Esko, is a mouse warrier during two shows and a Mother Ginger child in all performances.

Another Esko student, Kirsten Rye, was promoted from an advanced student in the School of the Minnesota Ballet to a junior apprentice with the company. She can be seen dancing in the "Waltz of the Snowflakes" in all performances as well as other parts in several scenes.

The Minnesota Ballet Orchestra plays the Tchaikovsky score and the Superior Youth Chorus provides vocal accompaniment during a scene.




Who: Minnesota Ballet

What: "The Nutcracker"

Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Symphony Hall

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: Adults $22-$44, students $17-$34, ages 12 and under $15-$29; purchase at DECC ticket office and Ticketmaster outlets

More info:, 218-529-3742