54 dancers with the Johnstown Concert Ballet are rehearsing for their 40th performance of The Nutcracker, which will take place in Johnstown this weekend.
That includes graduating senior Lauren Anderson who has been dancing with the company since she was 3 years old.
“When I was really young, my mom took me to see The Nutcracker. I came home and was dancing around in my nightgown asking my mom if I looked like Clara,”
“In the spring, she signed me up for ballet. Now I’ve been here for 15 years,”
Her junior year was basically nonexistent because of the pandemic, cancelling practices and performances.
“Taking that time off was really, really hard for me. I didn’t get to do what I loved with the people I loved,” Lauren said.
Another huge loss as a result of the virus: Carla Prucnal JCB’s Founder and Artistic Director passed away at the age of 74.
The company is now under the direction of Bethany Thomas, who danced with Carla for 14 years.
“They’re impossible shoes to fill. I don’t feel worthy to be here in this position. But it is such an honor,”
Now they have to carry on without Carla for the first time in decades.
It’s especially sad for the graduating seniors, who will perform their last shows this upcoming weekend.
“I wish I could tell her ‘thank you’ because I didn’t know when the last time I was going to see her was,” Lauren said.
But this weekend, she will be thanking her.
That’s because the company is dedicating their Nutcracker performance to their late dance teacher.
“As soon as we put the motivation of ‘We’re doing this for Carla’ in front of this Nutcracker, it has made it so much more powerful and so much more important,” Bethany said.
Now their biggest fan will be cheering them on from above.
“She just built something that was so incredible in Johnstown. I was so happy to be part of it. I feel like the only thing I can do now is keep that going and hopefully make her proud,”