In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Annia Hidalgo rehearses with Alexandre Ferreira for "The Nutcracker." (PHOTO: Rachel Malehorn)

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Hidalgo will dance Marie and the Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker." (PHOTO: Rachel Malehorn)

Hidalgo brings grace, beauty and hard work to her role in "The Nutcracker"

She moves around the rehearsal hall like a panther, anticipating the next challenge, ready to pounce and pound that challenge into submission.

She is long and graceful but wound like a world-class athlete, totally in control of her lean muscle, fully aware of the precision she needs for the grande jete or a perfect pirouette.

Annia Hidalgo, the newest leading artist at the Milwaukee Ballet, is in full motion as she rehearses with Alexandre Ferreira for their pas de deux in the second act of Michael Pink's "The Nutcracker," the holiday favorite that opens Saturday at the Marcus Center.

Hidalgo is Cuban, and her journey to leading artist (an honored position in any ballet company) in Milwaukee was not a smooth sail through the world of toe shoes and tights.

She grew up in Holguin, about eight hours west of Havana and less than an hour from Guantanamo.

"I wa a hyperactive child," she says. "I always wanted to play, but I didn't have any brothers or sisters. So first my mother put me into gymnastics. That didn't work so they tried ping pong. Then I tried karate, but someone kicked me, and I got out of that.

"Then they put me into ballet school. School ran from 8:30 in the morning until 5 o'clock. They worked you hard, dancing and classes and more dancing. When I got home I was dead. My mother said, 'Yes, yes, finally.'"

Ballet is a beautiful work, and while choreography is demanding, there is also a difference in dancers. Another leading dancer at Milwaukee is Nicole Teague who is like a snowflake being carried on a gentle breeze. Hidalgo is like a blistering storm.

"They are both beautiful dancers," says Ferreira, who has partnered with both of them. "Just different."

Hidalgo takes immense pride, for example, when in a rehearsal she worked hard to complete a difficult lift. "Michael kissed me on the forehead and said, 'You're fierce.' I loved that. I was feeling proud of myself."

She has been with the Milwaukee Ballet for five years after stops in Havana and Los Angeles, and she says that the city has become a good home.

"I was in New York recently and found I was missing Milwaukee," she said. "It's such a good city. Cold. But the people are so warm. And we sell out the ballet. It's amazing. The culture is wonderful in Milwaukee."

Hidalgo admits that she has dreams and is realistic to know that they don't always come true.

"For example, when Michael told me I was being promoted (to leading dancer) I didn't know what to say," she said, her lilting laugh punctuating what she says. "I just couldn't say a word. He said to me, 'Well, say something,'

"I never expected it. I don't expect anything. I have dreams and goals, but not expectations. That's why whatever success I have is always a surprise. But I realize that it's all the result of the work you put into something.

"My parents told me to keep my mind on one thing. They told me that hard work won't kill you."

Watching this beautiful young woman glide across the floor or sail to the sky in a lift, it's easy to see that all the work didn't kill her and that it paid off, both for her and for people who are thrilled by her grace and skill.

And the crowds are expected to be huge for the "The Nutcracker" that has become a treasured holiday tradition in Milwaukee along with the Rep's "Christmas Carol."

"The Nutcracker" opens Saturday and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.


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