For this ‘Nutcracker’ brother-sister pair, it’s a sibling pas de deux, not a rivalry
In many families galloping their way through the teenage years, a two-and-a-half year age difference between a brother and sister is a recipe for rivalry. Either that, or complete and utter disinterest in each other.
That is most definitely not the case in the Estrada household. The brother-sister team of John (age 15) and Pauline (age 12) loves ballet. In fact, the siblings both love it so much they want to be professional dancers. And in a sweet moment of family togetherness, they will appear together in the Lively Arts Foundation’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” which opens Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Saroyan Theatre. There are three performances: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday.
I caught up with John Estrada via email to talk about what it’s like to hang out with your little sister on stage.
(By the way, the older brother-younger-sister ballet pairing is popular this season. “The Nutcracker” also features Liam and Vivienne McCullar, ages 16 and 12, dancing in this production as well.)
Q: Nice to meet you, John. Tell me about yourself. How old are you? Where do you go to school? How long have you been doing ballet?
A: Hi, I’m John Estrada, and I am 15 years old. I am a freshman at Clovis North High School, and I have been dancing at Shirley Winters Ballet Studio for 5 years.
Q: Now tell me about your sister, Pauline. What is the age difference? Where does she go to school? How long has she been doing ballet?
A: My sister Pauline Estrada, who we usually call Tori, is 12 years old, so she is around 2 and a half years younger than me. She goes to school at Granite Ridge Intermediate, which is connected to Clovis North, and she has been dancing for 7 years at Shirley Winters Ballet Studio.
Q: Did Pauline get interested in ballet because of you, or was it vice versa?
A: Actually, I started ballet after Tori, but Tori wasn’t really what influenced me to start ballet. I think I decided to start because Carla Lippert, one of Central California Ballet’s Artistic Directors suggested it to me after my second Nutcracker audition, and after thinking about what she said, I decided that there was nothing wrong with trying something new. I ended up enjoying it and pursuing dance as one of my extracurricular activities.
Q: What roles do each of you play in “The Nutcracker”?
A: I play as both the Nutcracker General and the lead Chinese dancer. Tori plays as Marie, and she also performs in the Snow and Flower dances of the production.
Q: Fill in the following sentence however you’d like: My sister __________________.
A: My sister can sometimes be a little weird, but I enjoy her company most of the time, and I don’t know how my life would be like without her.
Q: Now, ask your sister to fill in the following sentence however she’d like (no cheating): My brother ____________________.
A: My brother is a little goofy but he is my favorite sibling (I only have one 😊) and it’s great to have a dance partner who is part of my immediate family and is supportive of my dreams and aspirations.
Q: Diane Mosier, artistic director of Central California Ballet, says that both you and your sister are interested in pursuing careers in professional dance. How old were each of you when you decided this?
A: I think I decided to pursue dance as a career two years ago, because I realized that I really enjoyed myself when I was dancing, and I wanted to keep doing it later in life.
Q: Any funny stories so far from “Nutcracker” rehearsal?
A: Rehearsals are usually pretty fun for me, so it’s kind of hard to pick a story, but one that I really remember was during party scene rehearsal. We had a break, so I decided to use the restroom. While I was in the bathroom, they started prologue rehearsals, and poor Tori had to do her whole Marie part without me. Everyone thought it was strange and funny as it looked like she was doing a weird solo, as I was missing from the scene.
Q: What is it like getting to dance with your sister in the same production?
A: I have been dancing with my sister for quite a while now, so it feels almost normal to be dancing together. We have done numerous recitals, galas, and summer intensives together, here in Fresno, as well as in other places like the Joffrey Academy in Chicago where we did our summer intensive training this year. I think it’s pretty fun being partnered up together since we already know each other so well.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
I would like to thank you for interviewing me. I hope you enjoy the show, as everyone will be doing their best to make this “Nutcracker” the best one yet.