Heights girl plays Clara in ‘The Nutcracker’ in Nashville

Photo courtesy of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Dearborn Heights resident Sarah Sibole, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Divine Child School in Dearborn gets ready to perform the role of Clara in a scene from the Nutcracker with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular now through Dec. 24 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. She is one of two girls who play the role.

Sunday Times Newspapers

HEIGHTS — A local girl hit the jackpot when she was in Las Vegas last summer without setting foot on the casino floor.

Dearborn Heights resident Sarah Sibole, 12, learned on July 12 that she would share the role of Clara from “The Nutcracker” scene Nov. 18 to Dec. 24 in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” at the 4,000-seat Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

In addition to the Nashville show, there are companies this year in New York, Boston and Durham, N.C.

Sibole was competing at the West Coast Dance Explosion national finals dance competition at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas with the competition team from her Dearborn dance studio, the Noretta Dunworth School of Dance, when on July 12 she got the news.

When the show closes Christmas Eve, she will have performed Clara in “The Nutcracker” number for half of the 58 performances. Sibole was Clara in the Nov. 18 opening show.

Sibole says being in the show is an incredible experience.

“I was nervous on opening night but after that I relaxed and just had fun with it,” she said. “The more crowded the Opry is and the more children in the audience, the more I enjoy it. It is fun to see their faces when I come out on stage in my tutu.”

Sibole and the other “Clara,” Lauren Yakima, 10, of Northville are the only children in the Nashville cast, also are in the show’s Living Nativity scene.

It’s the third year that she has auditioned for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and the first year that she was cast.

This year’s journey began May 4 when Sibole went to New York City for the initial audition. After surviving the first round of cuts she returned the first week of July for final auditions at the New York City Dance Alliance national dance competition finals. Sibole said was up against 50 to 60 other girls in the finals for the part of Clara, and was one of the top 10 finalists.

After learning in July she had been cast in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Sibole reported to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with her mother Nov.1 to learn the dance routines.

Then on Nov. 9 she reported to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and started rehearsing on stage for the Nov. 18 opening.

While in Nashville she stays with her mother in a hotel suite and balances rehearsals with tutoring.

Sibole, a seventh-grader at Divine Child School in Dearborn, is keeping up with the same assignments her classmates at home do in addition to performing.

She says she’s always wanted to be a dancer.

“I love performing on stage and now that I’ve danced professionally, I know for certain that this is something I want to continue to do when I grow up,” Sibole said.

Her mother, Cheryl, an accountant for a local business, has been doing her work from Nashville, juggling her daughter’s performance schedule and her job. She said her family has been very supportive.

Sibole said the adults in the cast treat them like little sisters or nieces and try to watch their language and curtail adult conversations around the two girls who play Clara.

“The cast members and crew are all so very nice and I’m going to miss them so much when it is all over,” she said. “They take good care of the Claras.

They buy us puzzles and help us put them together, play (board) games with us in between shows, and we’ve even gone out bowling together. I’ve also learned to knit while I’ve been here.”

She said it will be hard going back to her ordinary routine in January, but is even more determined to become a professional dancer.

“I will continue to focus on dance at the studio, attend dance intensives, and keep auditioning,” Sibole said. “I really want to be a Rockette or part of the ensemble with Radio City after I graduate high school.”

She said she knows that learning to sing will help advance her career as a dancer, a skill she will need to demonstrate at some auditions.

“To make it on Broadway you have a better chance if you can also sing,” Sibole said. “A cast member suggested that I should start taking vocal training and we’re going to check into doing that when I’m done with Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”
She added that she also hopes she will tall enough when she is 18 – at least 5 feet 6 inches tall — to audition to be a Rockette.

“Being part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been an amazing experience,” Sibole said. “Being in the actual show is incredible … this is something I want to continue to do.”