Trailside 5th grader stars in Nutcracker |

Trailside 5th grader stars in Nutcracker

Every girl is a princess, but only a handful of girls get to play Clara, the long-lashed Christmas darling who envisions sugar plum fairies, mice kings and, of course, nutcrackers in one of the most popular ballets on earth.

Madison Young, 10, isn’t just long in the lashes. As the youngest girl in 20 years to wrest the role of Clara from nearly 300 other girls, she’s also, surprisingly, long of tooth. Madison, a fifth grader at Trailside Elementary School, has appeared in Ballet West’s "The Nutcracker" for the past two years as a buffoon, one of the little imps to tumble from the skirt of Mother Gigogne. This year, Madison is one of four Claras who will share the role.

Young performs as Clara Dec. 11 through the 17th at Capitol Theater. Most girls Madison’s age play party girls in one of the show’s opening, and most iconic, numbers. Madison leapt right over the rite of passage to play the lead. Casting directors never questioned her talent, but they did question her height. Madison barely met the 52-inch height requirement. "I was right on the line," Madison said. "My ballet teacher was so psyched!"

Madison’s mom, Connie, can also aptly be described as "psyched." "I’m one proud mama," she said. At the auditions over Labor Day Weekend, producers kept making cuts, sending girls from the room. Connie examined their faces and didn’t see her daughter among them.

"What does that mean?" Connie asked another mom.

"It means your daughter is Clara," the woman replied.

Connie went from wringing her hands to squeezing her daughter.

"She’s always squeezing me," Madison said with a roll of her eyes.

The Young family moved to Park City from Bountiful four years ago. After sifting through a number of studios, Madison settled on the Wasatch Dance Center in Heber, where she now dances as many as six times a week.

Madison first auditioned for "Nutcracker" with the encouragement of her third-grade teacher and her mom, who now home-schools Madison part-time to accommodate her daughter’s dance schedule. "I danced, but not like her," Connie said. "It’s kind of been a gradual thing realizing she has a lot of talent. She loves it so much and I think that’s why she’s so good at it."

Madison is on stage nearly every second of the two-hour production, and, at one point, she has 20 counts to change into a tutu. Still, she says the hardest part is remembering everything.

Madison performs Dec. 11-17 at Capitol Theater. "The Nutcracker" runs from Dec. 5-27. For single tickets, call: 801-355-ARTS or visit . For groups of 10 or more, call: 801-323-6966. Group discounts are available.

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