Featured photo: Eleanor Broughton in Sleeping Beauty (photo by Peter S. Mueller)

Eleanor Broughton, 16, claimed her role in The Nutcracker when she was much younger.

“I wanna do that one day,” she says she told her mom and grandmother as she pointed to the UNCSA dancers elegantly twirling under the stage lights.

She says she immediately fell in love with the ballet.

The UNCSA high school junior will dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the performance art school’s production of The Nutcracker on Dec. 12.

Until then, she will be preparing to attend the Prix de Lausanne, an international ballet competition held annually in Lausanne, Switzerland. After submitting a 10-minute audition video showing classwork and a portion of contemporary dance, Broughton was one of 11 dancers from the United States and one of 82 worldwide chosen to compete in the prestigious event.

Eleanor Broughton dancing in a production of The Nutcracker (photo by Peter S. Mueller)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Prix de Lausanne expects to announce on Dec. 3 whether the competition will be held at all. Broughton remains optimistic as she has only traveled to Europe once.

“Hopefully we’ll all get to go to Switzerland,” she says.

If the competition takes place, the dancers will spend their time taking ballet and contemporary classes with the competition’s coaches, an experience Broughton can’t wait for.

“I think it’ll be amazing to be around so many exceptional dancers and getting to take classes from these world-renowned teachers,” she says.

Although she’s been training for the Prix de Lausanne for basically her entire life, dancing for such a large audience makes Broughton nervous.

“There’s so many people watching,” she says. “There’s a livestream that they do so people can watch it here in the States.”

Broughton began dancing at the age of three at the Academy of Dance Arts in Winston-Salem. In third grade, she auditioned for the Preparatory Dance Program at UNCSA, taking afternoon dance lessons in ballet, jazz, contemporary and character. In eighth grade, she auditioned for UNCSA’s high school program which she currently attends.

Before COVID, a typical school day for Broughton would include academic coursework with ballet from 10:30 am to 12:45 pm containing about an hour of pointe — a technique in which a ballet dancer supports all of their body weight on the tips of their toes while wearing pointe shoes. Dancing en pointe is by no means easy, which is one reason Broughton appreciates dance.

“I love how it’s athletic but also artistic,” she says. “It allows you to express your emotions while doing something that challenges your entire body.”

In addition to a full-body workout, Broughton’s favorite thing about dance is the temporary escape from reality.

“It’s so much fun to play a role in a ballet that’s completely different than how you would act in real life,” she says.

Underneath the elaborate stage costumes is a regular teenage girl who loves spending time with her friends and outdoorsy family.

“I love to be outside and relax after long days of school and rehearsal,” she says.

She played sports like basketball and soccer growing up and doesn’t back down from challenging her family to a game. She eats pretty healthily due to dance, but there is one thing she cannot resist.

“I love dark chocolate,” Broughton says. “Anything chocolate I love.”

Although the ballerina loves what she does, she stresses the importance of taking mental and physical breaks from the art. She lives by the phrase, “Work hard, play hard.”

“I definitely like to take time away from dance even though it’s such a big part of my life,” she says. “You don’t want to get too bogged down or burnt out.”

As coaches and dancers wait for Prix de Lausanne to make their announcement, Broughton looks forward to UNCSA’s production of The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker has been a huge inspiration for my dance journey,” she says.

She believes she was destined to fulfill the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“It’s crazy to see how dreams can become a reality sometimes.”

Visit UNCSA’s website to purchase tickets to The Nutcracker livestream on Dec. 12. On Dec. 17, the livestream will become available for on-demand viewing. To learn more about the Prix de Lausanne, visit the official website.

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