Ballerina To Pirouette In ‘Nutcracker'

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Commitment to art can come at any age.

Mikhail Baryshnikov is Maria Spear's idol.

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Ten-year-old ballerina Maria Spear practices for her roles as a bonbon and the party girl in "The Nutcracker."

"Some day I would like to dance like him, well, not exactly like him. I don't want to wear the same costumes," Spear said.

The 10-year-old ballerina spends nearly eight hours of her week dancing, plus another dozen hours commuting to Ballet Arizona in the Valley for lessons and rehearsals.

Spear will dance in eight public performances of "The Nutcracker" at Phoenix Symphony Hall in December.

She will dance as the party girl and one of Mother Ginger's children, a bonbon.

Recently, she stood in a room full of girls as a seamstress fitted her "Nutcracker" costumes.

"The party girl costume is yellow with poufy sleeves, pantaloons and golden shoes. The other one is green crayon-colored, shaped like a Hershey's kiss with a big red-pinkish heart on the back," Spear said.

Nearly 200 ballet dancers came from across Arizona to audition for "The Nutcracker." The judges chose only 120.

Spear told her mom on the day of the audition that she did not care what role she got, but she hoped to dance as something.

"The two parts are kinda big. I didn't expect two," Spear said.

She began ballet lessons in Heber when she was 5 years old and continued when her family moved to Colorado.

"I put Maria in ballet class, because I had two older boys. I wanted her to learn to be girly, because I felt I wasn't," Spear's mother Anna said.

"It turned out to be really fun," Maria said.

She played Tinker Bell in "Peter Pan" when she was seven, Clara in "The Nutcracker" when she was eight. At age nine, Spear played Cap'n Hook's monkey in "Peter Pan" in Colorado.

"I sat on Cap'n Hook's shoulder until the fight scene between Hook and Peter, when they went running off into the audience. Then, all the pirates and lost boys started fighting. Then, Tinker Bell and Peter's shadow attacked me," Spears said then giggled.

"Oh! Then Tinker Bell threw powder on me, so I jumped on Wendy's back and she spun me around. That was really fun," Spear added with another giggle.

When she was just 8 years old, Spear said she was scared to try a competition, but a year later, she was ready.

She won best junior ballet solo at L.A. Dance Force's 2006/2007 competition.

Spear has cried each time she has left an instructor and moved, but she has taken the rélevés, pirouettes and acting skills they taught her and is always dancing, even when she loads the dishwasher after supper.

She moved with her family to Payson in July and is a fourth-grade student in Mrs. Sharry Lien's class at Frontier Elementary School.

The hours commuting give Spear time to do her homework, listen to classical music and tunes from "High School Musical" on her iPod.

"I get really excited on dance days," Spear said.

Her brown eyes light up when asked if she wants to be a professional dancer.

"Oh, yes," she said.

Tickets for "The Nutcracker" are $15 to $115 and are available through Ballet Arizona (602) 381-1096 or www.balletaz.org or www.ticketmaster.

com. Spear performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 13, 15, 21 and 27.

She also performs at 1 p.m. on Dec. 23 and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 20 and 26.

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