PLATTSBURGH - The North Country Ballet Ensemble doesn't just love having children in the audience for their performances, they enjoy having them on stage as well.
The ensemble's upcoming annual production of "The Nutcracker" features several children who are both new to the stage and what some would consider seasoned veterans.
Madison Cleveland, a 6th-grade student at Beekmantown Middle School, has been performing in The Nutcracker for the past five years, though said she still loves being on stage.
"Ballet is a story told without words, just by movement," she said. "It's really a lot of fun."
Madison said she particularly likes The Nutcracker, which tells the story of a young girl named Claire who receives a nutcracker on Christmas Eve, then dreams of being transported to a magical world with the nutcracker, who becomes a prince.
"Ever since I was a little girl and saw The Nutcracker for the first time, I knew that I really, really wanted to play the role of Claire. Now, my dream has come true," said Madison.
It took many hours of practice, said Madison, but her hard work paid off. And, so did the work of Eydon Thomashow, a 7th-grader at Saranac Lake Middle School. Eydon also gets to play the role of Claire, with the two girls alternating who plays Claire during the seven performances the ensemble is hosting between Plattsburgh and Lake Placid.
Being in a production like The Nutcracker, said Eydon, is something she feels any child would be able to enjoy.
"I've been dancing since I was about 3 years old," said Eydon. "I like the way it makes me feel good even if I'm having a bad day."
Madison and Eydon said they were nervous the first time they each stepped onto the stage, but were quick to say that's something that's completely normal.