HARVARD — When Anna Wahl danced into first-grade classrooms at the elementary school recently, students’ eyes were all on her, wide with wonder as they took in the magic of the moment. It’s not every day that a Snow Princess comes to call.
From the tips of her satiny pink pointe shoes to the perky hem of her sparkly “platter” style tutu to the silvery tiara in her swept-up blonde hair, the Bromfield senior looked every inch the graceful, glittering ballerina as she entered two classrooms that HES physical education teacher Barbi Kelley had arranged for her to visit.
Kelley’s link to the studio is via her daughter, Alex, who danced there with Anna. Two other HES students also dance there: Sixth-grader Kathryn Hodskins and fourth-grader Grace Turnbul.
Anna danced the role of the Snow Princess in this year’s production of The Nutcracker, and these kids would be there to see it, Kelley said.
Her visit was simply a sneak preview.
The students attended a special afternoon performance of the holiday classic by Paula Meola Performing Arts Theater in Clinton, the studio where Anna’s been studying dance for about 15 years, or most of her life. She started as a tot and has been performing in the Nutcracker since age 8, she said.
Over the years, she’s been a bunny, a baby mouse and a snowflake, among other Nutcracker roles. One year she played Clara, whose mystical trip to the Land of Sweets with the Nutcracker Prince showcases the ballet’s most dazzling dancing.
The first-graders were interested in Anna’s costume, especially the toe shoes. She showed them off and explained the shank, box, and all the mysterious parts that make those awesome elevations possible. Then up she went, high on her toes. One student asked if it hurts. It did at first, she said, but ballet dancers get used to it. “I’ve been doing it for eight years.”
Anna asked her audiences if they knew the story of the Nutcracker. They did, and said they had been reading the book in class.
One boy sketched the story line and said he especially likes the part when the mice sword-fight with the prince. When asked if the blades were real, Anna replied, “Oh, no, we never use real swords.”
In all, there are 130 dancers in her studio’s Nutcracker production, Anna said, including boys and girls ages 7 to 18.
Anna talked about ballet terminology and demonstrated some moves before dancing out of one classroom and into another. As she left, one student’s breathless comment seemed to speak for them all. “She’s pretty!” he said.
Anna’s future plans include dance, but not as a career, she said.
Growing up, it took sacrifices to keep dancing, she said, including giving up the flute and the piano and soccer, which was too time-consuming, given her schedule. To add diversity, she started playing field hockey at Bromfield, she said, and she rides horses.
Her favorite subjects included psychology and English. After she graduates in June, Anna hopes to pursue an economics major in college, she said.