Local dancers prepare for weekend 'The Nutcracker' performances

Scenes from backstage at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts before a dress rehearsal for 'The Nutcracker' in Naples on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. This year's production, put on by the Miami City Ballet, includes 68 local performers, ages 8 to 16. Two performances will be held on Saturday at 2 P.M. and 8 P.M., and two performances are scheduled for Sunday at 2 P.M. and 7 P.M.. For more information, please call (239) 597-1900, or go to www.thephil.org. Tristan Spinski/Staff

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI // Buy this photo

Scenes from backstage at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts before a dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker" in Naples on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. This year's production, put on by the Miami City Ballet, includes 68 local performers, ages 8 to 16. Two performances will be held on Saturday at 2 P.M. and 8 P.M., and two performances are scheduled for Sunday at 2 P.M. and 7 P.M.. For more information, please call (239) 597-1900, or go to www.thephil.org. Tristan Spinski/Staff

— As teams of makeup artists, wardrobe assistants and production assistants oozed stress and nervously scampered backstage with pre-performance jitters on Friday night, Belle Birtolo and Lauren Roche locked eyes in a battle of wills.

The eight and nine-year-old dancers, both from Naples, were having a stare-down to see who could keep from laughing. Roche held the steady gaze and defended her title a half a dozen times before they, along with 66 other local performers, ages 8-to-16-years-old, were corralled to stage left for a dress rehearsal of “The Nutcracker” at The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts.

Victoria Sorhegui, 12, of Naples, plays the role of “Marie” in this year’s 22nd annual “The Nutcracker”, which is put on by the Miami City Ballet. Sorhegui says that after four years performing her character, all of her anxiety evaporates when the curtain goes up.

“It’s really exciting because every year you can learn from the year before and do better,” Sorhegui said.

Andrew Konjevich, 10, of Estero, says this is his second year performing the Christmas musical and says he loves the camaraderie with his fellow actors.

Tickets are still available for two performances on Saturday at 2 P.M. and 8 P.M., and two performances on Sunday at 2 P.M. and 7 P.M. at The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts. For more information, please call (239) 597-1900, or go online at www.thephil.org.

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