As a little girl in Brazil, Giovanna Lamboglia dreamed of seeing snow for the first time, receiving a nutcracker as a gift, and dancing the role of Clara, the plucky heroine in the beloved holiday ballet.

This year, the biggest of those dreams comes true.

The 24-year-old will be swept off her feet by prince Mateo Galindo Torres when she dances Clara in the annual Halifax Dance-Symphony Nova Scotia-Mermaid Theatre production The Nutcracker, Dec. 7 to 16 at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.

Lamboglia (who moved to Toronto to dance with Ballet Jörgen for the 2016–17 season) and Torres (a 30-year-old native of Colombia who studied with Pro Danza in Cuba and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre) spent the fall rehearsing under the guidance of Hannah Mae Cruddas.

A Dartmouth native and a Ballet Jörgen company member since 2012, Cruddas was Clara from 2014 to 2017. For the first two years, her Prince was Henry Jackson, then Ballet Jörgen’s Junior Gaspar Caballero.

Director and choreographer Leica Hardy selected the leads after two rounds of auditions in Toronto, where she looked for both dancing and acting ability. “Giovanna has a very bright force and a very open face,” she says. “She clearly loves it… When I saw Mateo, I saw a warm persona. Even when he stands still, he embodies the idea of being princely and regal.” She adds that his contemporary background and extensive classical ballet training impressed her.

A week before opening night Lamboglia and Torres began rehearsing in Halifax with the cast of young dancers: 12 children and four other adult performers (Scott Fulton, the man behind the Spirit of Winter puppet, Christopher Wolfe as the Janitor, and Gay Hauser and Alexis Milligan as Sophia and Lotte Drosselmeyer).

“I needed [principals] with a generous spirit,” says Hardy, who co-created this version of The Nutcracker 28 years ago. “They are the examples everyone has to follow, which is not something to be taken lightly.”

Lamboglia, who started dancing at age nine, is looking forward to the challenge, noting working with professional dancers when she was young inspired her to become a ballerina. She enjoys dancing with Torres and he returns the compliment explaining Lamboglia is funny and quirky and trusted him from the get go, important for the pas de deux (a duet in which the dancers perform steps together).

“I like the role of the Prince. He lives in two worlds, that of the puppet and the Prince,” explains Torres, who started dancing salsa and tango at 13 before turning to ballet. “It’s a challenge to embody both; to find the details and the sensitivities.”

Lamboglia, who has danced other roles in the Tchaikovsky classic, but never Clara, loves the “really, emotional beautiful” music. “My favourite part is when the Nutcracker is dead after the battle and Clara cries and has no idea what to do and the music is the most beautiful you will hear in the ballet,” she says.

And, she adds, she adores the snow, which for a girl from Brazil is utterly magical. 

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