Nutcracker star follows in sister’s dancing shoes

Media Coverage

North York girl plays Marie in national ballet company’s holiday show

Seven years ago, a young North York girl was chosen to play Marie in the National Ballet of Canada’s The Nutcracker.

Today, Stella Leowinata’s sister, Jacqueline Sugianto, has followed in her older sibling’s dancing shoes, landing the same leading role for this year’s production of the holiday favourite.

“It’s so cool,” Jacqueline, 11, said of performing the same role as her sister, who was the same age when she was cast as Marie. “There is one picture where we are doing the same pose. She’s given me advice and helped with some steps.”

While Leowinata has graduated from the National Ballet School of Canada and is currently pursing a bachelor of arts degree in dance and performance in England, Jacqueline is just getting started with the downtown ballet school, which boasts graduates such as Karen Kain, Rex Harrington, Veronica Tennant and The Nutcracker choreographer James Kudelka.

A former student at St. Bonaventure Catholic School, Jacqueline started her first year at Canada’s National Ballet School in September, where she is enrolled in Grade 6.

After going through an extensive auditioning process in July, Jacqueline was chosen to play the role of Marie.

The Nutcracker tells the story of Misha and Marie, a quarrelsome brother and sister, and their friend Peter, the stable boy. With Baba, their nurse, and Nikolai, their flamboyant uncle, the children travel from winter to spring and from childhood to adolescence.

Jacqueline’s first performance as Marie was Dec. 13, and though it was her first time on stage playing a lead role, she didn’t let nerves get the best of her.

“It was so fun,” she said. “It was a great experience. I was nervous backstage a lot, but once I was on stage it all went away.”

Leading up to opening night, Jacqueline would practice 90 minutes every day after school, in addition to regular dance class and keeping up with her academics at the Jarvis and Wellesley streets school.

With her mom, Linda Leowinata, a former ballet student who ran her own studio in Surabaya, Indonesia, and with two older sisters in ballet, Jacqueline has always been surrounded by dance, she said.

As for future ballet goals?

“My number one goal is trying to get into the National Ballet Company of Canada,” she said.

Running Dec. 13 to Jan. 4 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., Jacqueline only has five performances left with The Nutcracker on Dec. 18, 20, 23, 28, and 30.