Of the more than 80 local dancers performing in the annual "The Nutcracker Ballet," Jamal Clifton and Aaron Carter stand out. That's because they are the only two male dancers in the show at the Emma Kelly Theater.
Directed by local dance instructor Shay Morgan, performances will be held this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee next Sunday, Nov. 21.
Evening ticket prices are $17 adults and $10 youth. Matinee tickets are $22 adult and $15 youth and include a sweets and desserts reception at Sea Island Bank following the show.
Local dancers with the Statesboro Youth Ballet will be joined by two professional dancers to present the well-known story of Clara and her Nutcracker as they defeat the evil Mouse King and are swept into the Land of Sweets. Many of the dancers have performed in The Nutcracker in previous years including Amanda Moogerfeld, who will reprise the role of Clara, and Sarah Voiselle, who will perform as the Snow Queen with professional dancer Norbert Nirewicz.
Also in his second year with The Nutcracker, Clifton began ballet after becoming involved with dance through hip hop. He said he was inspired to dance after seeing the movie ‘Step Up.' A senior at Statesboro High School, he now performs in all types of dance including jazz, ballet and contemporary which is his favorite.
"Jamal has a lot of natural, God-given ability and he's very intelligent so he picks things up quickly," said Morgan, who is Jamal's ballet and jazz instructor.
Performing ballet, which is a female-dominated genre, can be difficult and not all of his peers understand.
"They underestimate how hard it is," said Clifton, who works out at the gym five days a week. His Nutcracker roles this year include the Nutcracker Prince and the Arabian Prince.
Already duel enrolled at Georgia Southern University, Clifton plans to attend college in Atlanta where he'll major in business and minor in theater or dance. His ambition is to work in film as an actor or dancer. But he also has one other ambition. "I want to try out for ‘So You Think You Can Dance'."
Morgan said many people see ballet as a ‘girl thing' and think boys don't participate. But many would be surprised at the strength and endurance needed to perform the moves and lifts - and especially to make them look effortless.
"The level of physicality - you have to be in great shape to do this endurance-wise," she said.
Southeast Bulloch Middle schooler, Aaron Carter began ballet four years ago after a friend of his mother's told him about her son who did ballet. Now he practices every chance he gets and aspires to be a principle dancer. "I just like it a lot."
Carter will perform the role of Fritz, Clara's brother, as well as the Arabian dance this year.
"Aaron also has a lot of natural ability, great turnout, flexibility and stage presence," Morgan said. As Carter has progressed as a dancer, Morgan said they have added more difficult steps to the role of Fritz each year.
Nutcracker tickets are available by calling (912) 212-ARTS or at the Emma Kelly Box Office between 1 and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
The Nutcracker is sponsored by Sea Island Bank, Thigpen, Lanier, Westerfield & Deal and Moogerfeld Internal Medicine.