Penn-Trafford sophomore dances 'Nutcracker' lead

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 8:46 a.m.

Daniela Sofelkanik is getting her chance to shine this weekend as Clara, the young girl who encounters the Mouse King and his minions on Christmas Eve, in the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra's presentation of “The Nutcracker.”

Daniela, a sophomore at Penn-Trafford High School, will take center stage during the Sunday matinee show after earning the role through the Laurel Ballet Performing Company. She has played various backup and choral roles in the annual holiday show since she was 10.

“It means a lot. I've been waiting to be Clara for quite a while,” Daniela said.

Daniela is one of three girls who will play Clara during the weekend shows at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. Madison Durbin of Hempfield Area High School and Alexis Nale of Greater Latrobe Senior High School will appear in the two Saturday shows as the young girl who dreams of a Nutcracker prince.

Eleanor Tornblom, artistic director for Laurel Ballet, said the role is challenging because the teen dancers work with professionals. Clara, in particular, is lifted and thrown during some sequences.

“It's not for the meek and mild,” Tornblom said. “It takes a special kind of person to be able to demand this of themselves.”

The company, which has its roots in a dance studio Tornblom founded in 1957, has combined with the orchestra for “The Nutcracker” since 1993. Tornblom said the girls who play Clara likely have the energy to do all three shows, but she likes to give several dancers a shot at the role.

“(From) whenever Clara starts the production, she's 10 times the dancer when she's finished, so we don't want to limit that experience to one person,” she said.

One of the biggest tests for Daniela has been juggling homework with rehearsals, which generally ran five days a week for about four hours at a time throughout November.

“By the time I get home, it's 10 o'clock, and then I have to start school work,” she said.

The part has required Daniela to prepare herself physically and mentally for the long days, her mother, Tu, said.

“I think it's a fantastic opportunity for her,” Tu Sofelkanik said. “She does well and she loves performing.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or

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