Young Talent on Display in Holiday Ballet

By Beacon Staff

It’s intriguing to watch the three principal dancers and two of the soloists in this year’s Northwest Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker” rehearse. Not only are the young women extremely talented, but they also spend so much time together that it often sounds like they’re speaking a different language.

They laugh as they hold difficult poses, and follow precise orders – unintelligible to the untrained ear – from company and school director Marisa Roth. It doesn’t take long to notice that what these dancers do is athletic, rigorous and requires intricate training, but unlike most athletes, these ladies have to make it look pretty.

And this group of dancers does not disappoint.

This is the 19th year the Northwest Ballet Company and School will perform the infamous holiday ballet the weekend after Thanksgiving – this year falling on Nov. 23, 24 and 25 – and every year, these local dancers get their turn in the spotlight.

The oldest and most-experienced students hold the principal roles in the ballet, and this year’s production features two girls who will dance their final Nutcracker with the company.

Morgan Sego will be 18 by the time the shows dance across the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts stage, and she is taking on the role she’s always wanted: the Snow Queen.

Dancing since she was 4, Sego said seeing a production of the Nutcracker in Seattle when she was 10 years old solidified her desire to continue the craft.

“I said, ‘I want to do this; I have to do this,’” Sego said during a break in rehearsal last week.

Sego started with Northwest Ballet School when she was 12, and joined the more-elite Northwest Ballet Company at 14. In her eyes, the school performances give the community a unique opportunity to see all sorts of talent on stage.

“I think Montana’s lucky to have a ballet company like this one because we have so many different types of characters we bring,” Sego said. “We’re all so different but we bring it together in this really cool thing.”

While she’s looking forward to the performance, there is some melancholy tinting her enthusiasm. Sego is headed to the Ballet West School in Salt Lake City in mid-December, so this is her final dance with Northwest Ballet.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It’ll be weird not being here all the time.”

Sego’s senior counterpart, Riley Freeman, said the company would miss Sego greatly. As a member of Northwest Ballet since 2004 and a dancer since she was 3, Freeman plans on getting the most out of her final Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“I love it so much, because I’ve always wanted this role,” Freeman said.

Ruthie Hunt, Megan Bridwell, McKenna Miller, Morgan Sego and Riley Freeman, right to left, take notes from Marisa Roth during a “Nutcracker” rehearsal at the Northwest Ballet School and Company in Kalispell. – Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Freeman’s connection to her role began after she danced in her first Nutcracker with Northwest Ballet in 2004 as an angel and a mouse, when the girl dancing the Sugar Plum role gave Freeman one of her point shoes after the performances.

“That just totally sparked something for me,” Freeman said.

She plans on doing the same this year; “a circle of life sort of thing,” she said, laughing.

Freeman said audiences could expect strong performances, a sentiment Roth echoed. There are 48 total dancers in this year’s production, Roth said, and there will be some tweaks in how they perform the ballet to shake it up a bit from previous years.

Roth said she has taught most of her lead dancers – including principals Sego, Freeman, and McKenna Miller as the Dew Drop Fairy, and soloists Megan Bridwell as the Arabian Princess and Ruthie Hunt as the Russian – for many years, and believes they are ready for their place in the limelight.

“They are awesome. They are who carries (the show),” Roth said. “I am inspired by them. When it comes down to it, it’s their show and they’re going to rock it.”

Shows are Friday, Nov. 23, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 24, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 25, 4 p.m. at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $20 and available at the Kalispell Grand Hotel and the box office on show days.

There will be a Black Friday Night Special for the Nov. 23, 8 p.m. show; all tickets will be the child price of $15.

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