Cangelosi Dance Project presents “Holiday Nutcracker” December 16 | Entertainment/Life

Ryland Carney, left, and Sydney Herzog sit in front of their reflections in the Cangelosi Dance Project studio. Carney dances the role of Clara and Herzog dances the role of the Flower Queen in Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker” on Dec. 16.

Ryland Carney will play more than the title role when he takes the stage as Clara in the Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker.”

She will carry a legacy.

Carney is the 12-year-old great-granddaughter of Phoebe Brantley, who founded the Phoebe Brantley Ballet School in Baton Rouge in the 1950s. She also founded the Children’s Concert Ballet and the Louisiana Concert Ballet in 1973.

“And she put on ‘The Nutcracker’ with these ballets,” said Chris Cangelosi, founder and artistic director of the dance company. “Now her great-granddaughter fills the role of Clara with us.”

Ryland Carney dances the role of Clara in the Cangelosi Dance Project’s rehearsal for “Holiday Nutcracker.” Personal video by Robin Miller

The Cangelosi Dance Project will perform its sixth annual “Holiday Nutcracker” at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, in the Brown-Holt Theater at Dunham School, 11111 Roy Emerson Drive.

Carney will join a cast of dancers in a traditional version of “The Nutcracker,” choreographed by Cangelosi. Among them will be 17-year-old Cindy Herzog, who now serves as the Flower Queen.

Herzog is a junior at Liberty Magnet High School, while Carney is a seventh-grader at Episcopal School.

“I wanted the role because of my great-grandmother,” Carney said. “She inspired me to do it.”

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Ryland Carney dances the role of Clara during the Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker” rehearsal.

Carney studied with Cangelosi from age 6, while Herzog began dancing with Cangelosi’s school at age 7, which included all six performances of the “Holiday Nutcracker.”

“I think what makes ‘The Holiday Nutcracker’ special is that Mrs. Chris tries to find ways to change it every year, so it’s new and inventive every year,” Herzog said. “And I think it will always be a special honor for me to dance in it. And I’ll be happy to do special parts because it’s a very respectable ballet that just brings a lot of joy.”

Well, to be honest, The Nutcracker follows the same story year after year, but that doesn’t matter to Herzog. Why?

“I remember running while dancing in it,” she said. “I love to dance on stage.”

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Sydney Herzog dances the role of the Flower Queen during a rehearsal for Cangelosi Dance Project’s Holiday Nutcracker.

Herzog hopes to major in dance in college.

As for Carney, she agrees that The Nutcracker is a special ballet.

“What makes it special to me is that I’m Clara this year,” she said. “And it’s really exciting because I really wanted to be Clara. It was fun, but it also made me nervous because I have a lot to learn. But it’s still a fun role to play.”

Herzog, meanwhile, also knows the challenges of being Clara. She danced the role in 2019, and even though she had the biggest responsibility of telling the story, she had fun with it.

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Young dancers watch as older dancers rehearse a number in Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker.”

Now, as the Queen of Flowers, she is included in one of the final dances that close the show.

“It’s an honor to do this,” she said. “And you want to make it really good and people enjoy it. So while I’m doing it, I always just tell myself to smile and enjoy it, because sometimes people think that ballet isn’t nice, but it’s a lot for me. Yes. So I just try to make it look nice and easy and effortless.”

Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker” evolved from the company’s previous “Holiday Mix” showcases, which featured the second act of “The Nutcracker” at the end of the production.

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Dancers rehearse a number in Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker.”

“Now we’re doing the entire production of The Nutcracker and using all of Tchaikovsky’s classical music from the beginning to the end of the first and second acts,” Cangelosi said. “And after I did all the choreography, I made it mine.”

As Carney mentioned earlier, Cangelosi is also adding new things along the way.

“The show has evolved,” she said. “It depends on who the talent is and the cast I have as to what changes I make. It sets up a lot of what’s going to happen, and with the people that are with me year after year, I can build on that and build on the choreography – build on the inventiveness.”

Take this year’s show for example. Cangelosi made Clara more involved in what was going on around her.

“Like Ryland said, it’s a challenge,” Cangelosi said. “As she progresses in ballet, her steps become more involved. No more single turns. Her turns are triple and quadruple turns.’

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Dancers rehearse a number in Cangelosi Dance Project’s “Holiday Nutcracker.”

And all of this combines to tell the story of Clara’s Christmas adventure.

Tickets are $20-$35. For tickets, email [email protected] or visit

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