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Face of Defense: Ballerinas Perform in ‘The Nutcracker’

By Army Sgt. Chris Harper
82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Dec. 16, 2011 – Many of the 60 dancers who perform in a local production of “The Nutcracker” ballet are the daughters of service members stationed here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Ballerina Anne Talkington, 17, the daughter of retired Army Col. Mark Talkington and his wife, Camille, performs during the North Carolina State Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Crown Center in Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 4, 2011. Talkington shared the stage with a cast of more than 60 performers, including many with Fort Bragg affiliations. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chris Harper

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The ballet, performed by the North Carolina State Ballet troupe, has in recent weeks entertained thousands at the Crown Center in nearby Fayetteville.

Ashley Watters, daughter of the 82nd Airborne Division’s chaplain, Army Lt. Col. Jeff Watters, who is now deployed to Afghanistan, has danced ballet for more than 11 years. This is her second seasonal appearance in the state ballet’s “Nutcracker” production.

Ashley began her dancing journey right here.

“I began dancing at a little place on-post at Tolson Youth Center,” Ashley said.

Erin Rafferty, 11, daughter of Lt. Col. John Rafferty, commander of the 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, has danced with the state ballet troupe for nearly two years.

Erin also played multiple roles in the “Nutcracker” production, including the head mouse, a child and as one of the clowns, which she admits was her favorite.

“I liked doing all of the cartwheels!” Erin said.

Erin’s father said he was impressed with the ballet troupe’s performance on Dec. 4.

“I got to be backstage tonight, and what I didn’t realize was how everything runs so precisely,” said Rafferty, noting he’d expected that backstage goings-on would be more hectic. But operations, he noted, went like clockwork, and the performers knew where to be, and when to change their costumes.

Also featured in “The Nutcracker” performance, which was directed and choreographed by Charlotte Blume, was Anne Talkington, 17, an 11-year member of the North Carolina State Ballet, and the daughter of Mark Talkington, a retired Army colonel.

“It was getting the opportunity to perform with the “Prince” from the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh,” Anne said about the evening’s highlight for her. “He’s professional.”

Sarah Middleton, 13, daughter of Lt. Col. Dan Middleton of the XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, danced the ‘Spanish Variation’ and the ‘Waltz of the Flowers’. Smiling following the opening show, Sarah said her dancing was enhanced by the adrenaline rush she received by performing in front of friends and family.

Paris Sullivan and Lauryn Meehl, both age 11, and Rebekah St. Cyr, 13, account for more than 18 years of dance experience between them. Each is the daughter of Fort Bragg soldiers and each danced to the delight of the audience.


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