When Sydney Fong was 6, her mom, Barbara Collins, did what many moms do — she signed her daughter up for dance classes.
Little did she know her daughter would fall in love with ballet and would be pirouetting professionally just two years later. Now 11, Sydney is poised to appear, for the third year in a row, in the BalletMet production of The Nutcracker, Nov. 25-27, at the Detroit Opera House.
One of more than 80 local dancers featured in the production, Sydney plays the parts of a Party Girl and a Ginger to the live Michigan Opera Theatre orchestra playing the classic Tchaikovsky score, more than 100 years old. The ballet tells the story of the young Clara and her beloved Nutcracker-turned-prince as they journey together to the Land of Sweets for a magical Christmas Eve.
Sydney took time out of rehearsal to chat with the JN:
JN: Where do you go to school?
Sydney Fong: I’m in sixth grade at Derby Middle School in Birmingham. I also attend Hebrew school at Temple Beth El.
JN: Where do you dance? Do you study other styles besides ballet?
SF: I’m a member of Eisenhower Dance Center in Birmingham. I’m also a member of student company [she will perform at the Detroit Opera House in January, and will also compete at the Youth America Grand Prix in Pittsburgh in January]. I also take contemporary and jazz classes. Ballet is my favorite — but contemporary is a close second!
JN: How many hours a week do you dance? How long did you prepare for this role?
SF: I usually dance about 12 hours a week. For The Nutcracker, we prepared for eight weeks. Rehearsals were always on the weekends — Saturday and Sunday — on top of the 12 hours. [“She’s good at time management,” her mom says.]
JN: Do you see dance as a possible career?
SF: This is a question I get asked a lot. I would really like to pursue ballet, but I’m not totally convinced yet. I also have a passion for writing and playing tennis.
JN: What do you love about dancing?
SF: It allows me to take my mind off of reality. I feel free when I’m dancing.
JN: Do you get nervous when you’re on stage?
SF: Sometimes. But once I’m on stage, I always forget my fears. If your dreams don’t scare, then they’re not big enough.*
By Lynne Konstantin, Arts & Life Editor