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By Laura Kinsler
The Tampa Tribune
Photograph by Next Generation Ballet
December 10, 2011

The Nutcracker Prince is synonymous with Christmas. It’s the iconic role that made Baryshnikov a household name, and it belongs in the repertoire of every great American dancer.

This week, a New Port Richey teenager will slay the evil Mouse King and escort his Clara through a magical world of sweets, snowflakes and sugarplum fairies.

Fresh from a summer spent studying at the School of American Ballet, William Dugan will dance the role of the prince on opening night Friday [December 16th] at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa.

“It’s the lead, and everyone’s watching,” said William, 14. “I get to play the part of being princely and make the magic happen with Clara.”

The teen has been studying ballet at the Patel Conservatory since he was 10. A member of the company’s Next Generation Ballet, he has danced in a “Nutcracker” production each December.

Artistic director Peter Stark said this is the first year William was ready to be the prince. “He has incredible technique and artistry,” Stark said. “He earned it through his ability. He surprised me. A year ago, I would not have imagined him dancing this role.”

Stark said William always had the makings of a great dancer — the right body type and determination. But there was something different about the young dancer when he returned home from New York — a newfound confidence and assertiveness.

“I see what happens when you’re surrounded by other top talent; it really pushes you to excel,” Stark said. “It gave him a hunger to show what he could do.”

William will need that bravura because he will be sharing the stage with superstars of ballet. Jose Manuel Carreno, who retired this year after a distinguished career as principal at the American Ballet Theater, will dance the role of the Cavalier. Boston Ballet soloist Jeffrey Cirio is the Snow King, and Katia Carranza, the Sugarplum Fairy, is a principal dancer with the Miami City Ballet.

“We really strove to differentiate this production from all the other ‘Nutcrackers’ in town,” Stark said. “Everything is at a higher level. Our guest dancers are world-renowned.”

Stark choreographed the show, which features a cast of 150 dancers and gymnasts and an Irish step dancer. “This is a $1 million production,” he said. “It’s visually stunning. It’s resplendent.”

William said the choreography is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. “No one’s seen it before,” he said. “There are more tricks to get the audience up on its feet.”

Although the Nutcracker Prince has the most demanding choreography, William also learned several other roles because cast members rotate. He will play the Mouse King and lead Russian in the Dec. 17 performance. The next day, he will play just a Russian.

“Peter says if you know one role, you should learn every other role because you never know what could happen on a performance night.”

William hopes for a sellout on opening night and expects a contingent from New Port Richey. “My mother invited basically our whole neighborhood,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever danced the lead. I’m kind of nervous, but I know everything will come together.”

This may be William’s first turn as the prince, but Stark thinks it won’t be his last. “This will always be a part of his life,” he said. “There’s not a ballet company in the world that doesn’t do Nutcracker.”

©2011 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC

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