Local Teen Performs in Cary Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

At 15, Sydney Upchurch is a force to be reckoned with in the world of ballet. Sydney is one of only a handful of candidates selected to represent the U.S. in the 2022 Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland — the equivalent of the Olympics for young dancers. A member of Cary Ballet Conservatory’s pre-professional ballet program, Sydney will be competing against dancers representing 17 different countries from around the world. Dancers invited to this prestigious competition go on to receive contracts from some of the best dance companies and schools in the world.  

Following a recent performance at the Youth American Grand Prix in Mexico, Sydney received her first professional offer to dance for Joffrey Ballet Chicago’s Studio Company.  With her decision pending the Prix de Lausanne, Sydney continues to dance almost 40 hours a week under the direction of her dance coach, Mariaelena Ruiz, her biggest supporter.

Sydney Upchurch as The Sugarplum Fairy

This month, residents have the opportunity to watch Sydney perform in Cary Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Dew Drop Fairy. Full productions will run Dec. 17-19 at the Cary Arts Center. In anticipation of her upcoming performance, we caught up with the busy teenager for a brief interview. 

How old were you when you started dancing, and when did you first know that you wanted to be a professional dancer?  

I started dancing at age 10. I knew I wanted to become a professional ballet dancer once I left my competition studio and started dancing at a studio solely focused on ballet in 2017.  

How do you juggle school work, a healthy social life, and almost 40 hours a week of ballet?  

It’s not easy. My mom says it takes a village. I actually do my school at the dance studio. They have a school program that we can utilize there called The Scholar’s Academy for the Gifted and Artistically Elite, and that has been helpful. That way I don’t have so much homework at night. Our school also has an emotional and mental health wellness class which has helped with school-life balance. The other kids at ballet are my social circle. We pretty much spend all of our time together.  

Will this be your first time dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the “Nutcracker”?  

Yes, it will, and I am so excited! This is a dream “Nutcracker” role.  

What advice would you give other young, aspiring dancers?  

Don’t ever give up. I did not start dancing when I was two or three years old. I was 10. And even at 10 years old, I was not doing ballet. So, you can start things later in life and still be successful, but none of this came easy. You have to work hard; nothing is given to you. If you have determination, then you can do anything.  

For more information about Cary Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” visit caryballetcompany.org/the-nutcracker/. Tickets for the annual holiday performance  are on sale at etix.com. 

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