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Q&A with Haylie Fletcher on ballet, The Nutcracker show at the Palladium

Can you describe your journey as a ballet dancer and how it has led you to your role in “The Nutcracker?”

I was put into ballet at the age of 3, and I really just liked the idea of the pretty tutus and just running around and I don’t know, having all the spotlight on you. And there was this one recital when I was little, I was dancing, and I just started singing the lyrics of the song we were dancing to, and I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time. And after that performance the next year, I was cast as the main role in that dance recital, and I knew ever since that I wanted to take it seriously. So I moved studios to Indiana Ballet Conservatory, which is in Carmel, Indiana. And they have a strict Vaganova-style Russian training for ballet. And from then on, I started competing professionally by the age of 9. And I’ve been traveling across the nation, competing and improving my technique and working on the more technical points in ballet. And it’s come to the point, as now being a 16-year-old sophomore at Carmel High School, that I was cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy in IBC’s “Nutcracker.”

What specific preparations do you take to prepare for your role?

So once it comes to the nitty gritty of Nutcracker season, at my studio, we have practicum rehearsals. We have rehearsals every night, and they’re typically from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. So I go to school, I leave early to train, and then I spend the whole night just rehearsing the choreography and working and getting corrections from my instructors.

Sophomore and ballerina Haylie Fletcher practices the “Arabesque” ballet position. Haylie said that ballet is an art form to be shared with others. (Keira Kress)

How do you approach the unique choreography of “The Nutcracker,” and what challenges, if any, have you faced in mastering the dance?

With “The Nutcracker” and especially my role as Sugar Plum Fairy, it’s a very gentle and generous character. So it’s definitely like a newer style of acting that I have to portray on stage, which I’ve been working on, trying to show more mature points of myself while dancing, and also just adding all of the technique to the choreography is really important. So I’ve been working on that. And with the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, you have to work with a partner in “Dove,” which is like the dance of two. And my partner, he is a world-traveling professional dancer, and he was on tour. He’s coming to our “Nutcracker” with IBC, and I haven’t worked with him yet, so I’ve just been preparing to partner, which is something I don’t know how else to say. It’s been challenging, but I’ve been focusing on myself and preparing to work with a partner as well.

How do you maintain peak physical condition to dance ballet, as ballet is a very challenging and demanding sport?

I make sure I warm up correctly and make sure to stretch all the correct muscles before and after to make sure there’s no unnecessary soreness or injuries. And I have a masseuse that I go to regularly, a chiropractor and many ice baths. And I have special gear that I put on my feet before I put them in pointe shoes just for extra protection so that I don’t get injured anywhere there either.

Do you have any memorable moments from ballet?

I think the most memorable moment of me on stage recently was the YAGP Youth America Grand Prix finals in 2023, which were held in April in Tampa. I performed my solo on stage in front of international judges and other international dancers across the world who made it to the finals. And I remember at the very end of the dance, before I went to bow, I was just looking around at the beautiful audience and how beautiful the theater was around. And I felt so proud of myself as I (had) gone this far in my career, and I never would have known that little 3-year- old girl would have made it this far. But with just a lot of determination and such, I was happy that I had.

How do you balance the technicality with the artistic expression needed?

That’s the most challenging part of ballet, I would say, is balancing the artistic and the technical. So when you’re rehearsing, you kind of get the technical details worked on first, and you just keep that in your mind and it becomes a force of habit. It becomes part of your body. And by the time you’re performing in front of audiences or other people, that’s when you start adding more to the character. You start envisioning what you’re trying to portray to the audience. And you have to know that you bring the mood into what you’re dancing as well as what technical points go into that as well.

Charlotte Horrocks

What advice would you give to an aspiring ballet dancer?

Even in the hardest times, when you’re only just disappointed in yourself and you feel like you’re not going anywhere, just kind of step back for a second and look back to where you started. Because no matter how much time you spend on it, you know that you’re still getting somewhere. And as long as you work smart rather than too hard on your training, you’ll definitely improve. And at the end of the day, in ballet, it’s an art and a sport, but in the art aspect, you’re just trying to share the love of what you do with other people, and that’s the beauty of it.

How do you personally connect and interpret your character of the Sugar Plum Fairy and bring your own artistic interpretation to the role?

I typically perform on stage with a very joyous facial expressions and character. And when I’m dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I like to, I don’t know, just be smiling and sharing the happy energy of the holiday season with other people that are also watching and also just being positive and, I don’t know, bringing the show alive as the Sugar Plum Fairy would.

 

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