Charlotte Nebres has made history in the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker. The 11-year-old is the first Black ballerina to play Marie in the George Balanchine version of the Ballet’s production since it launched in 1954.
Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, is one of two ballerinas alternating the role, with The New York Times noting that the lead roles of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince are usually double cast.
The young ballerina, whose mother is from Trinidad and whose father is from the Philippines, told the publication that it was Misty Copeland who inspired her to pursue ballet.
“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” she said. “When I saw someone who looked like me onstage, I thought, that’s amazing. She was representing me and all the people like me.”
Copeland congratulated Nebres by sharing the news of her casting on Instagram.
And the importance of the moment isn’t lost on Nebres or her mother, who recognizes that she’s fortunate to have grown up “in a time when it wasn’t just like, oh yeah I can do this, but not do this. There was nothing holding you back.”
The young ballerina is just happy to be able to do what she does best: dance.
“It just feels like when I dance, I feel free and I feel empowered. I feel like I can do anything when I dance,” she told the New York Times. “It makes me happy, and I’m going to do what makes me happy.”
The New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker will run through January 5. Tickets can be purchased at on their website.