Local girl lands spot in ‘The Nutcracker’

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

A 13-year-old ballerina from Roosevelt County has danced her way to the lead role in “The Nutcracker” with Ballet Lubbock and is aiming even higher.

Rachel Cox, whose family ranches south of Dora, is playing Clara, the girl who receives the nutcracker, despite having just joined the pre-professional ballet company in August. She hopes to eventually dance professionally.

“It’s really expressive, and I like to move a lot,” Rachel said of ballet. “It’s something that I’m very passionate about, and so it makes me happy when I dance. I’m not worried about anything.”

In August, she moved to Lubbock to live with the family of Sara Pendley, the office manager of Ballet Lubbock, and dance six days a week.

“She’s a very strong dancer, beautiful strength and technique, and she’s a great actress,” said Ballet Lubbock Artistic Director Yvonne Racz.

Rachel’s dance career started when she was 5 years old and joined a friend’s ballet class. After taking classes in several places, she participated in an intensive program at Ballet Lubbock last summer.

Racz, who said Rachel was a natural, offered her a scholarship to join the company. To accept, Rachel had to move to Lubbock.

Rachel’s mother, Robin Cox, said the decision to let her daughter go was hard, but she had no room to advance at home.

“We didn’t ever want to prevent her from using a gift she felt God gave her,” Robin said.

Rachel comes alive on stage, and ballet dancers have a narrow window to advance since a career usually ends before age 30, her mother said.

Also, Robin said Pendley’s family genuinely cares about Rachel, so she is comfortable leaving her daughter there.

Rachel said leaving her friends was hard. She also had to give up, for now, agriculture-related activities she loved.

In August, Rachel was one of two girls who landed the part of Clara.

“I was ecstatic,” she said. “I really didn’t think I’d get it.”

When she isn’t portraying Clara, Rachel is set to play a snow maiden and a flower in “The Nutcracker.”

Since August, Rachel has been practicing for an hour-and-a-half to six hours most days.

“It’s been really hard,” she said. “But it’s been fun.”

Dancing causes a lot of soreness, and Rachel had to learn many things. Still, she said learning classical ballet is exciting, and she enjoys practicing with other dancers.

Early next year, Rachel plans to audition for summer intensive programs at other dance schools. Her performance in those programs could lead to an invitation to attend the host school.

Rachel’s first choice is the School of American Ballet in New York City. Robin would like her daughter to stay in Lubbock another year, but if the girl receives an invitation to go elsewhere, there will be another hard decision to make, she said.

Fast Facts

What: “The Nutcracker” featuring Roosevelt County native Rachel Cox as Clara

When: Cox plays Clara at 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.; Cox plays a snow maiden and flower in performances at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. All times Central.

Where: Lubbock Civic Center

Tickets and prices: www.ticketsage.com/%5Flubbock/