From Clara to Snow Queen

Posted: Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ask Juneau teen Kiana Ford if her favorite iPod music is rap (nope), country (no), or perhaps good old rock and roll (ha ha, nah).

"I have the 'Nutcracker''s classical 'Sugar Plum Fairy'," Ford laughed. "The 'Pas de Deux.' A lot of classical music."

Ford is a typical Juneau teen athlete only in that her muscles come from years of love of her sport. Ford defies gravity over and over while dedicating herself to bringing a holiday gift to the capital city of Alaska for possibly the last time this weekend as the top junior dancer in "Nutcracker."

"I want to continue my education at the Joffrey Ballet," Ford said matter-of-factly. "I love everything about dance."

In 2009, Ford trained at Joffrey Ballet's Summer Dance Lab in Chicago and impressed them enough to be accepted into their 5-week international summer intensive this past summer, as well as the American Ballet Theatre's 3-week summer intensive. Now Joffrey representatives are encouraging her to enroll in their year-round Academy of Dance, a step in joining the ranks of professional ballerinas worldwide.

"I would say I would like to be a dancer," Ford said. "Because ballerina is the highest you can get, I would be happy with just becoming a dancer in a company. When I am in class (in Chicago), I try and focus on myself because there are so many great dancers it can be both intimidating and inspiring."

Ford will have to audition in January in Chicago for the Joffrey pre-professional division, one she has auditioned for and been accepted into each year. When she turns 17, she is eligible to be selected as a trainee for the professional ranks.

"I loved Chicago, it was basically like I never left between summers," Ford said.

Ford has danced in "Nutcracker" since its inception in Juneau six years ago, starting out as the young Clara and advancing to Snow Queen. This may be her last performance in that role, one of the top spots for JDU dancers.

"I want the Juneau audience to see how far how I have come since I was a little Clara until now," Ford said. "And I hope they see how much fun we have. How fun it is before the performance putting on make-up with your friends, getting into your costume, seeing the set and then the music plays. And we all are like, 'Wow! We are actually going to do this.'"

Watching Ford among the JDU cast is like watching her character of Snow Queen. She can alight softly around the younger dancers, comforting and teaching them, encouraging them to come out and play. Or she can leap and glide in front of a winter storm, tossed in a rhythm of classical notes orchestrated by Tchaikovsky's childlike enthusiasm and passion to express being forever young, to be forever in that magical place of youthful holiday spirit.

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