One tough Sugarplum Fairy

Camille Kellems, who has battled scoliosis for three years, will take on the demanding role in Maple Youth Ballet's 'Nutcracker.'

December 16, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Camille Kellems, 16, foreground, rehearses the party scene in Act 1 of Maple Youth Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in Irvine on Saturday. Kellems plays the Sugarplum Fairy.
Camille Kellems, 16, foreground, rehearses the party… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Posture is paramount to Camille Kellems.

And not only because she's a ballerina, but because she is a ballerina with scoliosis.

The 16-year-old Newport Beach resident was diagnosed as having a curved spine when she was 13.

For two years, she went to bed every night wearing a tight brace.

The device helped arrest the spinal curvature and allowed her to dance during the day completely unfettered, powering through any discomfort. 

Although the Corona del Mar High School junior no longer needs to stabilize her spine while sleeping, she remains vigilant about her form onstage and off.

Starting Saturday, she will don a pink tutu and glide into the spotlight at the Northwood High School Performing Arts Theatre in Irvine. Camille, enamored of ballet since she was 3, has been cast as the Sugarplum Fairy in the Irvine-based Maple Youth Ballet's annual production of "The Nutcracker."


An 80-person cast will take the stage through Monday in keeping with a five-year tradition. Along with choreography by the troupe's director, Charles Maple, the two-hour show will star Czech Republic-born guest dancer Vaclav Lamparter, a member of the American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, portraying the Nutcracker Prince.

"The Maple Ballet's version has become an affordable holiday choice among Southland families, many of whom have not attended a ballet prior to 'The Nutcracker,'" Maple said via email. "For a child, there is no better introduction to the world of ballet than 'The Nutcracker.' It's colorful and accessible, with a child-centric story fueled by [Peter] Tchaikovsky's exquisite score."

While the choreography does not change significantly every year, dancers bring characteristic flair to their roles, he remarked.

The performance kicks off in the prologue with Grandmother Clara, who is surrounded by her grandchildren on Christmas, relaying the story of being gifted her beloved Nutcracker and pointe shoes by Herr Drosselmeyer.

"In most Nutcrackers, the character of Clara is not defined in any particular manner," Maple said. "She is simply a young girl (daughter of the hosts of the party), who receives a Nutcracker, falls asleep and then has a dream of her Nutcracker becoming larger than life, a battle ensues, etc. In our Nutcracker, Clara faints after the Nutcracker is killed and she awakens as a grown-up."

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