The Dart: Training for the dance

Published 12:01 am Monday, September 24, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — A group of young dancers in the role of angels watch Caitlyn Upton, 16, center, and Randa Morace, 17, right, while they practice the Sugarplum Fairy role of “The Nutcracker” Sunday afternoon at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center. Between the two, Randa and Caitlyn have danced in 15 different roles in the performance since they were 5 years old.

NATCHEZ — When Randa Morace and Caitlyn Upton first took the stage as 5-year-old angels in “The Nutcracker,” they peeked from behind the curtain to watch the performance of the dancers they longed to be.

LAUREN WOOD / The Natchez Democrat — Upton practices the Sugarplum Fairy role Sunday afternoon at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center. Upton and Morace hope to continue their dancing careers at the University of Southern Mississippi as members of the Dixie Darlings.

Now Morace and Upton will play, again this year, the coveted roles of the sugarplum fairies in the Natchez Ballet Academy’s presentation of the famous ballet.

When The Dart landed on the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center Sunday, the girls were rehearsing their choreography for the ballet, which opens in November.

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Young dancers looked on as Morace, a senior at Trinity Episcopal Day School, and Upton, a junior at Cathedral School, gracefully practiced their pirouettes and glided across the floor on pointe.

Academy Director Mignon Reid said the young dancers look up to Morace and Upton.

“This is the part they all want to play,” Reid said. “And Caitlyn and Randa are great examples for the girls.”

Morace and Upton remember what it was like to look up to the older dancers, especially the sugarplum fairies, when they were young ballerinas.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t even dance during rehearsal; I would just watch them,” Morace said.

Being role models for the young dancers is a privilege, Morace and Upton said.

“It really makes you feel special,” Upton said.

For the aspiring sugarplum fairies, the older girls said they believe the young girls will get as much out of ballet as they have if they stick with it.

“We really wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t stuck with it,” Morace said.

The girls have been dancing together in “The Nutcracker” since they were in kindergarten and, between the two of them, have played 15 different roles.

“We always end up being cast as partners too,” Morace said.

The girls hope to continue dancing together through college as Dixie Darlings at the University of Southern Mississippi.