Markleeville boy earns role in Nutcracker |

Markleeville boy earns role in Nutcracker

by Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

Ever since Andrew Zaninovich was 5, he wanted to be in the “Nutcracker Ballet.” This weekend, the Markleeville 10-year-old will be dancing the part of Fritz in the Nevada Festival Ballet production in Reno.

“When Andrew was 5, I took my mother and my family to see the ‘Nutcracker’ in San Francisco,” said Andrew’s mom, Karen Zaninovich, who works at Nutrition Unlimited in Gardnerville. “Andrew sat on the edge of his seat the whole time. Afterwards, he said that when he turned 16, he wanted to play the Cavalier.”

At the time, Andrew had been taking dance lessons from the recreation department, along with his older sister, Courtney, and younger brother, David, Karen said.

Andrew stuck with ballet and is now at the intermediate level at the Academy of Dance Arts in the Gardnerville Ranchos with instructor Kelly O’Fallon. There are 10 to 15 other male dancers at that school, Andrew said.

“What I like about ballet is that it’s challenging, and, even though most boys think it’s not a guy thing, this kind of dance actually helps with sports,” he said Tuesday from his grandmother’s house in Reno, where he is in rehearsal all week. “For example, I play soccer, basketball and baseball. For baseball, the ballet makes your arms stronger and you can hit a lot harder than usual. Also, I can run the bases faster because my legs are stronger.”

n Nice role. Andrew tried out for the “Nutcracker” along with many other ballet students from around Reno, Karen said. He was initially hoping to at least be one of the party boys, but when he got the role of Fritz, the little brother who actually breaks the nutcracker, he was thrilled.

“He actually has to do some acting,” she said. “Of course, since it’s a ballet, no one talks, but he has to act with his face and his body.”

“I like playing Fritz, because at home I’m usually the naughty boy, and in the ballet, I get to be bad and break the nutcracker,” Andrew said.

Andrew will be on stage for at least an hour during each of this weekend’s five performances, he said, and this week’s rehearsals have really brought the cast together.

“It’s much better than when we first started,” he said. “Everything is really coming together now. My favorite scene is the one where I’m in candyland.”

Andrew performed a lesser part in a smaller production of the “Nutcracker” when he was 6, but said he won’t be too nervous this weekend.

“I’ll only be a little bit nervous, since I’ve performed in front of people before, especially at recitals at my dance school,” he said.

n Will continue. Andrew said he can see himself continuing with dance – he takes jazz lessons also – into adulthood and perhaps into a professional career.

“I also want to maybe get a master’s in business so I can work for a really big company and make a lot of money or start my own business,” he said.

In his non-dancing time, Andrew likes to spend time with his friends, playing tag, riding bikes and just “hanging around.”

One of the benefits of being a boy ballet dancer has not eluded Andrew.

“There are cute girls,” he said.

n About the ballet. “The Nutcracker Ballet,” with music by Tchaikovsky, debuted on Dec. 17, 1892, in Russia at the Mariinsky Theatre, the home of the Kirov Ballet.

It was not performed outside of Russia until 1934 when it came to England, and in 1940, a short version of the ballet came to the United States. In 1954, Kirov-trained George Balanchine staged the first full length “Nutcracker Ballet” in the U.S.

Performances of the Nevada Festival Ballet in downtown Reno’s Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts will be Friday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and up, with family rates available. For more information, call (775) 785-7915.