By MARIE GILBERT
5:00 PM EST, December 6, 2012
It's a hectic Saturday afternoon inside the City Ballet School at Hagerstown's City Centre.
In an upstairs studio, children bump into each other as they scurry from one room to the next with costumes in hand. Parents help set up stage props, the artistic director tweaks a sequence of dance steps while the music of Tchaikovsky plays in the background.
It's December and another "Nutcracker" is being polished and assembled, piece by tinselly piece.
There is attention to detail, enough hard work to make the floor shake and a commitment to creating magic.
In a few days, the young dancers will earn some of the biggest ovations of their lives.
But, on this particular day, everyone is reminded of the layers of rehearsal that turn a child into a performer.
A holiday tradition will continue on Saturday, Dec. 8, and Sunday, Dec. 9, when The City Ballet School and the Western Maryland City Ballet Company present "The Nutcracker" at The Maryland Theatre.
The production will feature lavish costumes, special stage effects and almost 100 dancers, including two young women who share a special bond. They not only have been selected for leading roles — they are sisters.
Emily Rohrer, 17, will appear as the Dew Drop Fairy, as well as other roles, while Phoebe Rohrer, 11, is Clara.
The daughters of David and Cori Rohrer of Boonsboro, both girls have been dancing for most of their young lives.
To have the opportunity to dance together as major characters in "The Nutcracker," they admit, is pretty special.
As students at the City Ballet School, the girls auditioned to be part of the holiday classic that tells the story of a child heroine who sees her world change size, her nutcracker doll come to life, participates in a battle of mice and toy soldiers and undergoes a journey into realms she never knew existed.
For Emily, having a lead in "The Nutcracker" is nothing new. She has been with the ballet school since age 3 and has appeared in numerous "Nutcracker" roles throughout the years, including Clara.
But for Phoebe, who has been dancing since she was 4 years old, the news that she, too, would have a starring role was "really, really exciting," she said. "It was the first time I had a happy cry."
Phoebe will be sharing the role with fellow dancer Erica Bergquist. Phoebe will dance as Clara on Saturday, while Erica will take the role on Sunday.
Emily, who attends Boonsboro High School, credits an older sister, Sarah, with piquing her interest in dance.
"When she was 3 years old," her mother, Cori, said, "Emily would stand in the doorway of the ballet school's studio and watch Sarah's class and try to do the steps they were doing. Eventually, she was invited to join them."
Phoebe, who attends Boonsboro Middle School, said she, in turn, would watch her sister Emily dance and knew that was what she wanted to do, too.
But it might have been her destiny to become a dancer, her mother shared.
"Lauran Clowser, the founding artistic director of the ballet school, bought Phoebe a Nutcracker outfit when she was born," Cori said. "It's almost like it was meant to be."
While both girls are excited about being a part of "The Nutcracker," both admit to having nerves when performing before a large audience.
"But all of the dancers are best friends," Emily said. "So, being together, we're able to calm each other down."
This weekend, the girls also will have the support of family and friends who will be attending the performances.
"We've got about 50 people — teachers of Emily's, friends from the Washington, D.C., area, godmothers, family members — who will be in the audience," Cori said. "They'll have a very big cheering section."
Both girls said they hope that the world of dance will always be a part of their lives.
When Emily heads off the college next year, she said that she'll continue to pursue dance — maybe not as a major. But I won't stop dancing. I would certainly enjoy teaching ballet. That's something I've thought about in the past."
Phoebe's goal, she said, is to have a career as a modern dancer.
"I really like modern dance," she said. "I'm able to be creative."
According to artistic director Danielle Horochowski, almost 100 dancers from City Ballet, other schools, as well as acting adults will be involved in this year's "Nutcracker."
While the company presents other celebrated classics and contemporary work in the spring, "we always present 'The Nutcracker' for the Christmas season," Horochowski said. "It's a tradition and it's something that the public looks forward to attending as part of their holiday celebration."
"It also builds an audience for ballet," she noted. "Many dancers, including me, will cite 'The Nutcracker' as one of their first encounters with ballet. We might all come from different backgrounds but 'The Nutcracker' holds a special significance to all of us. It carries many sentimental memories."
If you go ...
What: "The Nutcracker" presented by the Western Maryland City Ballet Company
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
Cost: Tickets cost $23 to $60 and are available by contacting The Maryland Theatre Box Office at 301-790-3500 Monday through Friday or at www.mdtheatre.org
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