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'Nutcracker' performer got his feet wet in Hagerstown

November 28, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Lauran Clowser, artistic director of Potomac Classical Youth Ballet, remembers Justin Leaf coming to a summer workshop she held years ago at Hagerstown Community College.

He was 13 years old.

"That boy could leap, and he could hang in the air," Clowser said.

She asked the teen if he'd be interested in taking ballet lessons.

He said yes, and he did - three days a week.

"He was willing to work," she said.

Leaf graduated from Clowser's City Ballet School five years later, and continued his training at Goucher College and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. He went on to earn a bachelor of fine arts from the Juilliard School in 2001. Leaf, now 27, had decided at 15 that he wanted to dance professionally.

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"I thought I couldn't imagine my life without it," he said.

He is a member of the James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis, and he will be in Hagerstown, dancing the role of the Cavalier in the Potomac Classical Youth Ballet production of "The Nutcracker." He will be joined by his Sewell Ballet colleague Peggy Seipp-Roy, who will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Leaf danced the roles of the Arabian prince and the Mouse King in last year's "Nutcracker" with Potomac Classical Youth Ballet.

He had his first role in the ballet at 13 - as Fritz, the little brother of Clara, who receives the gift of a nutcracker.

The Cavalier is a new part, a challenging role, Leaf said.

But he said coming back to The Maryland Theatre is "always special."

"That's where I grew up," he said, adding he's looking forward to performing for friends and family - "people that I've been connected to all my life."

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