Ready for 'The Nutcracker'

Cortez girl lands role with Durango ballet production

Ivana Shirley-Kibel demonstrates her ballet ability at Rhonda Allmon's dance studio. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Ivana Shirley-Kibel demonstrates her ballet ability at Rhonda Allmon's dance studio.

Ivana Shirley-Kibel is a very busy girl.

At nearly 11 years old, she keeps her mother, Tammie Shirley, on her toes. This year it was cheerleading, gymnastics, basketball and dance. A few years ago it was soccer and dance. In January she will start volleyball, and she will dance.

This young girl has boundless energy and that surging energy must be channeled somewhere. But like every child, boredom can be a nemisis. Soccer lost its edge. Cheerleading departs with the fall leaves. But there is one activity that Ivana hasn't lost interest in. It keeps the youngster on her toes too. It's dance.

At the tender age of 3, Ivana's mother enrolled her into Rhonda Allmon's Dance Studio here in Cortez. It's a wonder how kids as young as Ivana can respond to the discipline and patience dance requires. Tammie says Ivana is a natural and immediately fell in love with dance.

"I've always loved music and dance. I love the ballet," Tammie says. "We are so much alike, so I wanted her to try it. She fit right in and has loved it ever since."

Ivana, a fifth-grader at Manaugh Elementary School, is confident and cool in her dance skills. She rarely gets nervous or feels stressed.

Even when she knows she will be participating in the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara's production of the "The Nutcracker." The ballet company, based out of California, tours through the United States performing various productions. This year the "The Nutcracker" will be in Durango at the Fort Lewis College Concert Hall Friday, Dec. 14 through Sunday, Dec. 16.

Tammie saw the show a few years ago and knew what a great production it was. She went through various channels before gathering the information needed for Ivana to audition.

"I knew they held auditions for local kids," Tammie says. "They don't have major roles but the kids can try out for small parts in the ballet."

After speaking with a parent in Ivana's acting and modeling classes, Tammie phoned Dance Durango. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place, and a few days later, Ivana was onstage rehearsing for the Christmastime classic. She landed a toy soldier role in her first large-scale ballet production.

"It made me feel good (about getting the part)," Ivana says happily. "It makes me proud knowing everything I worked on helped me to get it. It gives me more confidence."

Beginning in October, Tammie and Ivana would travel to Durango every Saturday so Ivana could practice with the rest of the cast. The practice lasted for an hour and a half, then they would return home. Ivana is the only child from Cortez in the production. It's safe to say her schedule of activities may not be as hectic as it seems.

On Monday, Ivana goes to school, then heads to Rhonda Allmon's studio from 5 to 8 p.m. for dance classes and on Tuesday she practices from 7 to 7:45 p.m. Her basketball practice and dance schedule is alternated every other week.

"I don't have to make her do any of it," Tammie explains. "She is naturally disciplined and confident. Every activity she is in was of her own decision. If she doesn't want to do it, she won't."

Tammie is not like those infamous show business moms. Her daughter has to do homework as soon as she gets home. And she has to keep up her grades if she wants to continue participating in sports and dance. The stipulations are no problem for Ivana. She carries on freely with only one thing on her mind, and that's to have fun.

"I love dance because it keeps me active," Ivana says. "I like performing for people and learning new dances."

Ivana has taken lessons in clogging, hip hop, lyrical, ballet and tap. All of her classes are done at Allmon's studio. Allmon has been teaching Ivana different styles and techniques for eight years.

"(Allmon) really has helped Ivana to love music and dance more than she already did," Tammie says.

Allmon thinks this opportunity will be great experience for Ivana.

Ivana is a regular kid. She loves pop music, country and hip hop. She tumbles and flips all over her house, proving her gymnastics lessons have paid off. She also dances her way around their home, music blaring and hips twisting. Tammie says at times, it's impossible to get her to stop moving or even slow down.

Ivana hopes to break into more large-scale productions as she gets older and her opportunity with "The Nutcracker," will be stamped onto her resume. She knows it won't be easy. Ivana works hard and practices even harder to perfect every step and turn.

"Dance is fun but ballet is hard work," Ivana says with a serious tone. "You have to be prepared and you have to do the right things or you might mess up."

Her easygoing persona says that if she fell, she probably wouldn't care. She knows to get back up again. It's easy to see she loves dance for how it makes her feel.

Her only goal is to have fun.

No worries and no stress. And yes, "The Nutcracker."

Ivana Shirley-Kibel will be in the Durango production of “Nutcracker” this year. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Ivana Shirley-Kibel will be in the Durango production of “Nutcracker” this year.