Music pumped through Sofia Isabella Lutman’s headphones as she warmed up for one of the biggest auditions of her life, Clara in the Academy of Russian Classical Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
“I went in there focused,” Lutman said. “I went in there mentally and physically prepared, and I danced to the best of my abilities. I made sure I was warmed up, ready to go.”
All that preparing paid off – she got the part – and performed twice as Clara last December with the company. Lutman – who is in the eighth grade – found herself rehearsing and performing with professional guests artists and current principal dancers with the Russian National Ballet and Moscow Ballet.
Saying she was excited about this dream opportunity would be a severe understatement.
“I was beyond thrilled,” Lutman said about landing the role. “I’ve always dreamed of being Clara, and it's a role not everyone gets a chance to dance.”
The performance at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor — the second of the run — was one of biggest venues Lutman has ever performed in.
“It just made me feel like, you know, a true professional,” Lutman said. “It made me feel so happy to see all those people and know I can entertain them with my art and with my love and with my performing ability. I wish I could do it all again.”
Even though Lutman was well-prepared for the role – and her second performance went off without a hitch – she said that during her first performance it was a little nerve-racking.
“The first show I was a little bit nervous,” she said. “But as soon as my big acting section in the party scene started I went straight to my happy place, which is performing.”
Performing has been Lutman’s happy place since she was six. At eight, she became a competitive dancer before focusing on solely ballet and contemporary at 10.
Now, she’s at the Academy of Russian Classical Ballet, where she’s enrolled in their professional ballet trainee program and taught by Olga Korotaeva and Mariana Labonova, who are both former professional ballerinas. The program is a specialized intensive year-round program for ballet students who strive for the highest standard in classical ballet education with the goal of a professional ballet career.
Lutman – who lives in Birmingham and dances 27 hours a week, plus three more on Sundays for the ArtLab J Youth Company – said the training in the program is intense but she loves it. This type of program was what Lutman had been searching for.
“I was with another ballet studio and I was like, ‘I really just need something more. I need harder training. I just need more ballet. I want it and I need it in order to become a professional dancer,’” Lutman said. “And ever since I moved into their trainee program, I’ve been so happy and so grateful to be getting this awesome training.”
Her ultimate goal is to become – you probably guessed it – a professional ballerina, ideally with a European company, like the Royal Ballet or Paris Opera Ballet. This way she would be able to not only perform but see different parts of the world.
When asked if she had a favorite part about ballet, she talked about her love for the challenge, the training, and being able to perform, before giving her final answer.
“I don’t think I have a favorite, I just love it all,” Lutman said.
Photo: Jean Lannen