Irvine teen stars in ‘The Nutcracker’

Ballet dancer Sophia Koo, 14, plays Clara in “The Nutcracker”,” pictured at the Southland Ballet Academy in Fountain Valley on Thursday, November 11, 2021. (Photo Copyright © {iptcyear4} Leonard Ortiz. All Rights Reserved)

Sophia Koo, a Beckman High School freshman, has scored the coveted role of Clara in the upcoming Festival Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” at Barclay Theatre. We caught up with her to talk about how excited she is to be the star of the annual holiday classic.

Q: How did you find out you got the role of Clara?

A: It was after school. My mom picked me up, and she told me when I got in the car. I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ My friend was also in the car with me, and we were all screaming with excitement.

Q: Who did you text first?

A: My dad because he’s my biggest fan.

Q: When did you begin studying ballet?

A: I started dancing when I was 4, but I didn’t start taking ballet seriously until I was 8 or 9.

Q: Where do you train?

A: Southland Ballet Academy, which has a studio in Irvine. Southland is so amazing. It’s given me so many opportunities, both performing and competitions.

Q: Are you nervous about playing one of the most famous ballerina heroines?

A: Yes, I am nervous, but I’m actually more excited. I can’t wait to show my family my growth. They have sacrificed so much for me, so I’m really excited to perform for them.

Q: How often do you train?

A: About 20-30 hours a week. Every day there’s a ballet class. I also have rehearsals and private sessions when preparing for a competition.

Q: You’re a very busy 14-year-old. How do you unwind?

A: I like to go hang out with my friends. Our favorite place is probably Irvine Spectrum or Fashion Island. We like to walk around and shop.

Q: Do you have a favorite food to fuel up on?

A: Korean BBQ. The place my family and I always go to is called Honey Pig. It’s in the Cypress Village Shopping Center right across from Southland’s Irvine studio.

Q: What’s the highlight of your career so far?

A: When I was in sixth grade I got a short-term scholarship to take classes at the Royal Ballet School in London. I had performed at a gala here, and the director of the Royal Ballet was there watching. He decided to give me a scholarship.

Q: Do you want to dance for a living?

A: My goal is to pursue ballet professionally. I want to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London and the San Francisco Ballet School. Those are my dream schools.

Q: Why are you drawn to ballet?

A: I feel I can best express myself through the movement.

Performances run Dec. 10-24. Information at thebarclay.org


THREE MORE COMING ATTRACTIONS

• FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

Experience Hikari, the festival of lights, at Tanaka Farms. Enjoy a wagon ride to the Land of a Thousand Lanterns, then walk through the Gingerbread Forest with live music, food, barnyard animals and Santa. Info at tanakafarms.com/hikari.

• PAJAMA PARTY DRIVE-IN

Curl up in your most festive pajamas to watch Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on the big screen from your car. Advance registration is required at yourirvine.org. 6 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Great Park.

• HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING

Kick off the season at Irvine’s annual holiday tree lighting. Festivities include visits with Santa Claus, live holiday music and a winter-themed train route. 4-6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Civic Center.

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