K. Bone, contributing teen writer
This year, the Cache Valley Civic Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker features lifelong friends Laura Geertsen and Anne Summers who started in the production as Clowns almost 10 years ago, and this year were co-cast as the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen.
Both 16 years old, they are two of the most accomplished ballet dancers in the area. They started dancing around age 2, and they haven’t turned back since. Their hard work is illustrated through over a decade of classes, numerous ballet roles, multiple summer intensive trainings, and acceptance into Salt Lake City’s Ballet West Academy.
Ahead of roles like The Nutcracker’s Sugar Plum Fairy, Anne and Laura have worked for hundreds of hours. A typical week for them includes attending high school — Anne is a junior at Logan High School and Laura is a sophomore at Green Canyon High School — and spending 16 to 18 hours a week in ballet classes and rehearsals. These include two afternoons and evenings a week at Ballet West Academy.
Even their summers are a time for training. Anne spent last summer at the Pacific Northwest Summer Intensive and Laura at the Houston Ballet Summer Intensive. These are rigorous 5-week programs where six days out of the week they receive up to eight hours of training a day. For Laura and Anne, the reward makes all the hard work worth it.
“You put so much hard work into it and it’s not something that happens naturally,” Laura said. “The hard work pays off so much and love to see that and I feel it’s taught me a lot in my life and it’s so fun to perform. It’s fun to be someone else for a night!”
The audience, the lights, the sort of “magic” that comes with ballet is what motivates Laura and Anne. They both feel it’s surreal to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy. This is Anne’s 12th year performing in The Nutcracker and says it takes the talents of many community members to produce the show.
“We love working together and enjoying the experiences of performing and being in the theatre,” Anne said. “I feel it’s a big part of the community, being in our beautiful theatre and having the orchestra. It’s so magical … that’s definitely the word!”
Anne recalls that an instructor at Ballet West says about dance, “There’s nothing to prove, only to share.” She goes on say, “That’s one of my favorite things, it’s all about sharing your love for dance and the gifts you’ve been given to dance. You can feel the audience; you’re connecting with them.”
With experiences come lessons, and ballet has taught the girls a variety of things. Both mention the importance of learning how to take care of their body with daily stretching and workout plans. Along with the physical things that come with dance, the mental skills gained are just as great.
Anne says, “You go to class and get corrections, you’re learning a growth mindset.”
Laura continues, “It’s definitely taught me how to accept criticism at school. Some people feel offended at teachers for criticism, but I love it! I’ve learned to love the process.”
It’s safe to say that through years of intense ballet/dance training and workouts, both girls have obtained a mentally tough mindset. Attitudes such as how to “trust the process” is a skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
For them dance is more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. The dance room and stage are an escape or break from their everyday life and they enjoy being with fellow dancers who they call their “dance family.” As Laura puts it, it’s a way to “put the rest of the world away — the rest of life, and everything that’s stressing you out.”
Though they spend a lot of time dancing, Laura and Anne try to balance their lives. They both love school and have been involved in student government and other activities during their time in high school. They are grateful for the excellent dance training they’ve received at Cache Valley Civic Ballet and all the opportunities they’ve had as part of Cache Valley’s Nutcracker tradition.
Their hard work can be seen live this year during Thanksgiving weekend at the Cache Valley Civic Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker at the Ellen Eccles Theatre.
Sandra Emile, the artistic director of the Cache Valley Civic Ballet sums up Laura and Anne by saying, “Both of these girls have worked very hard over many years to be in the roles they are dancing this year. Their dedication and focus is admirable and it has been a pleasure to see them develop as dancers and young women. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with them.”
Top: Anne Summers and Laura Geertsen in their first Nutcracker role as clowns; Bottom: Laura Geertsen as a Party Girl and Anne Summers as Clara.