Ani Kassian-Howard Joins Boston Ballet’s Production of ‘Nutcracker’

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BOSTON — Ani Kassian-Howard of Belmont is performing in Boston Ballet’s production of Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker” in the lead children’s role of Clara. Kassian-Howard has been a student at Boston Ballet School since fall 2017. “The Nutcracker” opened November 24 at the Boston Opera House with performances through New Year’s Eve, December 31.

At age 14, Kassian-Howard is no stranger to the role of Clara. In Maryland, she performed the role (and many others) at the Olney Ballet Theatre for the Berrend Dance Center’s production of Mary Day’s “The Nutcracker” (Patricia Berrend, director). Prior to this, she also performed the role in an abridged version of the ballet for Kinetics Dance Theatre’s Student Company (Ellicott City, MD) called “The Cracked Nut” (Becca Buller Sigmund, director).

Born in Boston, Kassian-Howard has lived in Maryland for the past 10 years and is the daughter of concert pianist Anna Soukiassian and Dr. Jeffrey Howard, professor of violin at Towson University. Her primary training has been at the Berrend Dance Center and Kinetics Dance Theatre where her teachers included Patricia Berrend, Tim Fox, Runqiao and Erin Du, Aaron Jackson, Erica Molina, Dmitri Malikov, Becca Buller Sigmund, Jodi Guzewich and Lauren Tait. She has additionally participated in Summer Intensives at Maryland Youth Ballet, Boston Ballet and Carolina Ballet.

Kassian-Howard is performing in 15 of 44 shows this season in the role of Clara. She joins 250 other young Boston Ballet School students from around New England in Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker.” Three different casts will take on various roles, such as toy soldiers, pages, reindeer, lambs, polichinelles, baby mice and party children during Boston Ballet’s 44 performances of “The Nutcracker.”

Since its world premiere in 2012, Mikko Nissinen’s and Robert Perdziola’s re-envisioned production has been delighting audiences and critics alike. The production marked the first time Boston Ballet built a new production entirely from the ground up, engaging crafts men and women from all over the United States. Perdziola illustrated more than 40 sketches that were transformed into the production’s larger-than-life sets that range from calm, subtle colors in the Act I party scene to vibrant colors in Act II’s Land of the Sweets. The 2012 production also incorporated more than 350 beautifully intricate costumes and fine-tuned choreography. New lighting design by renowned Finnish designer Mikki Kunttu was added in 2015.

All children performing in “The Nutcracker” are students of Boston Ballet School and coached by an experienced staff including Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, Boston Ballet School Director Margaret Tracey, Children’s Ballet Master Miranda Weese, and Boston Ballet School’s faculty. Students auditioned and started rehearsing for the production in October. They will continue rehearsals through November, which includes rehearsals with Company dancers and costume fittings with Boston Ballet’s Costume Shop. They will experience the unique, backstage atmosphere at the Boston Opera House through technical and dress rehearsals, as well as performances accompanied by Boston Ballet Orchestra and attended by more than 2,000 audience members each night.

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