As a toddler, Gabrielle Fish became mesmerized by a San Francisco Ballet production of "The Nutcracker," particularly by the whimsical main character, Clara. Now, at 11, the dancer at Encinitas Ballet Academy is getting the chance to play the role Dec. 16.
Gabrielle, who has been dancing since she was 4, considers playing Clara a dream come true. In the past, she has danced the roles of characters like a little mouse, angel, bonbon, party kid, little snow, a wilted flower, soldier, big snow and ballerina doll.
"The practicing has been really fun, and it's already felt so magical," she said. "When I found out, I actually started crying. It felt like my seven years of hard work had finally paid off."
She said she is especially looking forward to act out Clara’s personality.
Eventually, Gabrielle, a sixth grader at Ada Harris Elementary, said she'd like to play the Sugar Plum Fairy, who has arguably one of the most well-known dances and songs in ballet.
Sayat Asatryan, co-artistic director of Encinitas Ballet, said she has seen Gabrielle grow at her studio.
"When Gabrielle first joined Encinitas Ballet, her mother, said to me 'I’m not sure how long Gabrielle will remain in ballet. She seems to enjoy it now, at the age when most little girls love wearing tutus and tiaras, but who knows what her passion will be once she grows out of that phase,'" Asatryan said. "Gabrielle's dedication impressed me from the very beginning. She fell in love with ballet and performing, and was willing to put in the extra effort in order to improve."
Since joining Encinitas Ballet, Gabrielle has danced in seven productions of "The Nutcracker" and has also danced roles in "Sleeping Beauty," "Don Quixote" and "Swan Lake."
Asatryan described Gabrielle's interpretation of dance as "breathtaking." She said Gabrielle is able to effortlessly combine the drama, movement and music.
"Sometimes I feel that through her interpretation of movement, it’s as though she wants to say something," she said. "It looks like she is living in her dream."
Gabrielle's mother, Sarah Fish, said dancing has helped her daughter grow in other aspects of life.
"Through ballet she has learned focus, determination and how hard work can pay off," Fish said. "These attributes have transcended into all aspects of her life, including achieving outstanding grades in school and confidence in public speaking."
Gabrielle said "The Nutcracker" is something she looks forward to every year and doesn't get tired of.
"The music is just really festive and it's just a Christmas tradition that brings out this spirit," she said.
Performances take place Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad. For tickets and more information, visit www.encinitasballet.com.