(Sami Stewart is a Shenango High senior and a dancer with the New Castle Regional Ballet. She is keeping a journal of the ballet’s preparations for its annual holiday performance of “The Nutcracker.”)

Well, rehearsals are running as usual, and it gives me time to think about this being my last "Nutcracker."

It is so strange to feel excited and sad at the same time. Erika Lunn, my best friend and fellow dancer, and myself find ourselves discussing this often. When I think back along the way of my dance career, there are so many people that have helped me on the way. I have to give a special thanks to all of my family, all of their support has been amazing.

But I really have to thank my Grandma Ladybug and Pappy Bob, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to go to summer programs, festivals and get new shoes every month; also my great grandparents, Betty and Jay Covert, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in dance. They have helped pay for my tuition over the years.

They are currently residing at Passavant Retirement Center, so their health may not allow them to come see my last performance but they helped me achieve it. Although they won’t be there in person, they are in my heart, so this performance is for you Gram and Pap.

It is so important to have family support, I am so thankful for mine. But not just family support, friends, teachers, and even the general audience are all part of making the performing experience so amazing.

For me, when I step out on the stage and look into the audience, the more people I see the less nervous I am and the more excited I get. When there are people you know there watching you, it is even more uplifting.

All the dancers are working so hard pulling this show together. Even if ballet isn’t your thing, come support the dancers that you know that are in this show, YOU might be the one to make someone’s performance the best one they have ever had!

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