• Local theater building community and confidence through dance

    By: Kerry Kavanaugh

    Updated:

    The Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre is about more than dance, casting dozens of local children in its rendition of The Nutcracker.

    Jose Mateo is conducting a small army of children from across Greater Boston and from within the Dorchester community where they'll soon perform The Nutcracker.

    Xhamani Huertas, Leahwatt Vasquez and Lillyrose Lubangi are among some of the smallest performers hitting the big stage for the first time.

    "He's interested in serving the community and being diverse," said dance teacher Janelle Gilchrist.

    Gilchrist says that's why the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre opened a satellite studio in Dorchester and why she encouraged her young students to step up and try out. They were all cast in the role of mice. 

    "When I am backstage I just feel like there's a rainbow behind me and I feel like there's butterflies in my stomach," said Vasquez. 

    "I'm feeling happy because my mom is out there watching me on stage," said Lubangi. 

    These moms say the performances are about so much more than dance.

    "It was a great opportunity that you don't see around here, especially for ballet," said mom Njiva Mbuyi. "I love that we are building community.... really seeking the same thing as you, growth for their kids."

    Personal growth is a journey that began the day they took their first lesson. 

    "I've definitely noticed her self esteem has increased a lot, even in school," said mom Louvelyn Vasquez. 

    "Now they're just beaming and shining and so happy to be on stage," said Gilchrist. 

    The performance of The Nutcracker will begin this weekend and continue through next week. The final performance is on Christmas Eve. 

    For the full performance schedule, click here

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