Photo Credit: Phil Wayes

Monday, November 29, 2010

Watching Dance: Visions of Sugar Plums- An Interview with Lauren Ciobanu

Christmas time is here... and with it comes Nutcracker season! The Nutcracker is a dancer’s tradition-- many begin performing as small children or mice in Act One, and “grow up” into new roles each year. For most girls, though, the dream role is the Sugar Plum Fairy: the pinnacle of Act Two, the epitome of all things sweet and good.

This season, Houston Ballet will be debuting Lauren Ciobanu as Sugar Plum Fairy. Lauren received her early training from the Phoenix School of Ballet, then went on to train at the Kirov Academy and in Stuttgart, Germany. She performed with Sarasota Ballet before joining Houston Ballet in 2009. I recently got to ask Lauren a few questions about what it’s like to dance this special role.


Notes From Upstage Left: Most dancers grow up with The Nutcracker-- either seeing it or performing in it every year as a child. Is there a particular production that will always be memorable to you?

Lauren Ciobanu: When I was three years old, my mother took me to see San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker. Even today, I remember seeing the dancers on stage and knew from that moment that I wanted to be just like the dancers on the stage.

NFUL: You are debuting as Sugar Plum Fairy this year with the Houston Ballet. Have you danced the role elsewhere?

LC: I ‘ve performed the role with Sarasota Ballet of Florida and in guest performances throughout the United States. While dancing with Sarasota Ballet, I had the opportunity to partner with ABT’s world renowned Jose Manuel Carreno! We not only performed Sugar Plum together, but he coached me in the role as well. It was an invaluable experience.

NFUL: I imagine you must have been excited to learn you would be dancing the Sugar Plum this year. Can you tell me what thoughts went through your head when you found out?

LC: When Stanton Welch told me earlier this season that I would be performing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, I was elated. I was so honored that he would trust me with the role and I was determined to give it the respect it deserves, after all-- it’s the role that got my career started!

NFUL: Who are your partners? Have you worked with these partners before?

LC: I will be performing with Principal dancer, Ian Casady which I am so excited about. We have worked together in La Fille mal Gardee, Sandpaper Ballet and Stanton Welch’s TuTu. He is a wonderful partner and a joy to work with! I will also be performing with demi-solosit, Peter Franc. It is our first time working together, and we’re both debuting in these roles-- which makes it extra special.

NFUL: You got a lot of your training at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. How old were you when you began studying there?

LC: I went to the summer program at Kirov when I was 11 and was invited on full scholarship to stay for the year-round program. It was a difficult move at such a young age, but necessary for my training. The final two years of my training were spent on full scholarship at the John Cranko-Schule Pre-Professional program.

NFUL: Tell me about how you came to Houston Ballet.

LC: I was really impressed with Stanton Welch’s leadership. I admire his choreographic style; and I have always thought Houston Ballet has one of the most interesting repertoires’ in the country. I was also impressed with the high caliber of the dancers-- from the corps de ballet right up to the principals! Working with talented dancers performing interesting work was what I wanted to be doing, so Houston Ballet was my first choice.

NFUL: What was it like to dance in the Tree Lighting ceremony?

LC: It was so much fun! To see so many smiling children and bring them some Holiday joy was so special to me! I couldn’t believe how many children were present and hope that it brings more families to see The Nutcracker this season.


You can catch Lauren Ciobanu and the artists of Houston ballet in The Nutcracker, running now through December 26th at the Wortha Theater Center’s Brown Theater. For more information, visit You can also check out Houston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter. Don't miss this wonderful production!

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