Skip to content

Ballerina, 14, returning to Sarnia for The Nutcracker

Cathy Dobson Former Sarnian Annabelle Holland is being welcomed back on stage by the ballet school that inspired her to begin dancing at the age of four.
Annabelle Holland is returning home to perform in excerpts from The Nutcracker, staged by Shirley Schram’s Sarnia Ballet School. Chad Pilkington Photo

Cathy Dobson

Former Sarnian Annabelle Holland is being welcomed back on stage by the ballet school that inspired her to begin dancing at the age of four.

You could say Holland has the plum role in Shirley Schram’s Sarnia Ballet School’s Nutcracker excerpts.

“I know Annabelle has the passion to be the Sugarplum Fairy,” says Schram. “She definitely showed she had passion when she was at my dance school, always working toward a certain standard that shows on stage.”

Four months ago, Schram invited Holland to return from Toronto to be guest artist in the school’s annual Christmas production.

Holland, 14, left Sarnia two years ago to study at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada, then moved to Toronto for a full-time pre-professional program.

She dreams of dancing with a professional company someday, perhaps The Royal Ballet, where her idol Marianela Nunez dances.

To get there takes an astonishing amount of dedication and hard work. Instead of hanging out with friends, Annabelle dances four to six hours almost every day. She takes education online to accommodate her schedule, and her entire family moved from Sarnia to Toronto after Annabelle began attending The Carret Dance Conservatory.

Being invited to star in The Nutcracker with her former school is a special honour, Annabelle said.

“I am very excited to show everyone what I’ve learned about dance since I left.”

The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy may look easy but it’s technically challenging, she explained.

She needed to find a male dancer to perform pas de deux with her as The Cavalier, and was able to recruit Toronto-based freelancer Dominic Who.

The two have rehearsed together in Toronto while about 35 of Schram’s students rehearse in Sarnia.

“I’m sure it’s going to look great,” Annabelle said on the phone from Toronto. “I just love ballet.  It’s always looked so beautiful to me. I just love that you are never perfect. You can always improve.”

“That keeps me going.”

Schram has a long tradition of presenting The Nutcracker in Sarnia at Christmas time.  She retired briefly but has opened a new school of dance that shortens the original production by presenting excerpts.

Every year, more excerpts are added, said Schram, but it’s difficult to find males. With Annabelle and Dominic, this year’s 90-minute show will include solos and pas de deux, as well as a coda or grand finale with the Sugar Plum Fairy and The Cavalier.

Ethel Crossman, who teaches at Schram’s school, is hand-stitching many of the costumes and says the production is elaborate.

“People say I’m crazy to stitch them by hand but it works better,” she said. “And I don’t mind doing it because the Nutcracker is such a beautiful ballet.”


WHAT: The Nutcracker Excerpts presented by the Shirley Schram Sarnia Ballet School

WHEN: Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

WHERE: The Sarnia Library Auditorium

TICKETS: $15 in advance online at or $18 at the door.

The Arts Journal reflects our cultural community. If you have a story idea, contact [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

Join the Community: Receive Our Daily News Email for Free