South Georgia Ballet Celebrates its 20th Season, The Nutcracker and 20 years of Clara

Published 4:23 pm Friday, November 17, 2017

South Georgia Ballet celebrates its 20th season of inspiring youth to strive to achieve the instinctive artistic grace that comes from being a dancer. Its performance of The Nutcracker will take place on Saturday, November 25th and Sunday, November 26th at the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium. SGB would like to pay tribute to the many dancers that performed the lead role of Clara over the past 20 years.

Imagine watching your tiny dancer as she watches in amazement the awe and wonder of young dancers twirling and leaping their way across the stage. Their costumes sparkle, their skirts twirl and there is one character that she idolizes, Clara.

For decades, the role of Clara has been the benchmark of success for many young dancers. Because The Nutcracker is a tale of a young lady coming of age, this means that could be the first leading role of some aspiring ballerinas. So many dancers have dreamed of portraying Clara, but only a few have had the opportunity to experience this iconic role.

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Over the past 20 years, there have been 22 dancers play the role of Clara. Starting in 1998, Sarah Doolin Roy was cast as Clara when SGB performed selections of The Nutcracker with the Albany Ballet Theatre. Following in Sarah’s footsteps was Chelsea Hodges Carvin (1999), Haley Payne Stewart and Natalie Van Landingham, (2000), Carrie Kessler Stanaland and Jessica Robinson (2001), Bailey Harvard Greer (2002), Shelley Spooner (Colquitt-2003), Margaret Singletary Hardy (2004), Kendrick Long (Bainbridge-2005), Olivia Ogelsby Vickers(2006), Alison Whitaker (Bainbridge-2007), Shelby Mitchell (2008), Sara Whetsell Roman (2009), Katherine Herndon (2010), Audrey Simmons (2011), Krista Robinson (2012), Maria Dunbar (2013), Gabrielle Wimberly (2014), Sophi Sampson (2015), Sydney Ellen Rawlings (2016), and this year’s Clara Abby Chapman.

SGB’s first full-length Nutcracker’s Clara, Chelsea Hodges Carvin, remembers the experience fondly; “Being Clara was my first childhood dream that ever came true. I remember lots of hard work and many, many blisters, but I will never forget how much fun I had both onstage and off. SGB has always had wonderful instructors and so many volunteers who work together to create this magical experience. You can’t help but feel like you’re part of a big family. Definitely one of my favorite and most memorable roles of all time.”

Melissa June, Artistic Director comments, “Each of these dancers started this role with nervous anticipation. As they learned the steps of their first pas de deux, they all struggled with confidence, the extensive amount of pointe work, bruised toe nails, shaky supported pirouettes and unstable lifts. We were witness to their own coming of age as each and every one grew into the character, started to breath and learn to work with their partner and performed the role of their lifetime beautifully. We are so proud of each of our Clara’s and are excited to see which of our aspiring students will be next.”

Bainbridge residents, Elizabeth Cohen and Emily Grace Tuten are company dancers with South Georgia ballet and will be performing several roles in The Nutcracker.

South Georgia Ballet renews its performances each season so that every year brings a creative updated version of this timeless classic story. In celebratory fashion, this season’s Nutcracker will offer a live orchestra performance and new choreography. A live orchestra will add a new dynamic for the audience and dancers alike. The orchestra will be conducted by Dr. Boyan Bonev, an award-winning cellist and a music professor at the University of West Florida. He holds a Doctor of Music degree and a Master of Music degree from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Music degree from his native home country of Bulgaria. Multiple local area musicians are playing in the orchestra: Dr. Sally Hernandez, Dr. Colleen Wade, Dr. Karl Barton and Kevin Reichert.

Each year new guest artists are invited to perform in SGB’s Nutcracker. This year’s performance will feature renowned artists from The Miami City Ballet. The Sugar Plum Fairy will be portrayed by Principal Soloist, Lauren Fadley Veyette and the Cavalier will be portrayed by Soloist Jovani Furlan.

South Georgia Ballet also has a passion for positively impacting the lives of youth in our surrounding communities. SGB partners with area schools to allow school students to attend a school matinee performance. It has been estimated that over 38,000 students have been entertained by these performances. They strive to foster a love of the performing arts to students that may not otherwise have an opportunity to experience it. Along with these discounted performances they also have an outreach program and work with area agencies to enable at-risk youth the ability to take dance classes at no cost to them. This has been a long-standing program for SGB and continuing with outreach expansion efforts, they have been able to include area foster children and special needs children. Students in the outreach program also perform during The Nutcracker.

Please join South Georgia Ballet as they celebrate 20 years of improving our communities’ cultural exposure, transforming young dancers into graceful performers and broadening the experiences of area youth with live performances.

To purchase tickets, visit the South Georgia Ballet website at: For more information on how to become a partner with this exceptional program contact the SGB offices at 229-228-9420.