Local Arts

Ballet star comes home to guest-star in ‘Nutcracker’ (and she’s bringing an ABT plus-1)

A bit of ABT ballet (and a Charlotte dancer who’ll be in town soon)

Remy Young, granddaughter of Gay Porter, will be in town to guest-star in Porter's "Nutcracker" for Charlotte Youth Ballet. Here, the New York Times catches her (in black and plum, at about :40) rehearsing "La Bayadere," back in the summer.
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Remy Young, granddaughter of Gay Porter, will be in town to guest-star in Porter's "Nutcracker" for Charlotte Youth Ballet. Here, the New York Times catches her (in black and plum, at about :40) rehearsing "La Bayadere," back in the summer.

Belmont-raised Remy Young has performed in ballets choreographed by some of the world’s most iconic choreographers: George Balanchine, Anthony Tudor — and her grandmother, Charlotte’s Gay Porter.

Young, 21, moved to New York at 16, and is a full member of the renowned American Ballet Theatre, the company that includes Misty Copeland, reigning rock star of the dance world, and Melanie Hamrick — who gained fame when she returned to dancing just four months after having a child, with Mick Jagger.

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Remy isn’t star-struck by these colleagues, though. She comes from ballet royalty. Her grandmother, whom she calls “Gay Gay,” trained in her native London with Julie Andrews; danced in the original London production of “The King and I”; and has run Charlotte Youth Ballet for close to 40 years.

Gay Porter’s daughter (and Remy’s mother), Bridget Porter Young, is artistic director for the Belmont School of Ballet, which, like CYB, uses classical teaching methods from London’s Royal Academy of Dance – the very place Gay Porter trained. Gay and Bridget both taught the youngest member of their dynasty.

And Remy didn’t get a free pass because of her pedigree. “She’s worked so hard,” said her mom. “It’s exciting to see her sacrifices have paid off.”

Remy will return to the place she got her start as a 3-year-old to perform her grandmother’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” Nov. 30-Dec. 2. She’ll bring her ABT partner, Marshall Whiteley, who’s previously danced the role of the Mouse King. (Remy danced many “Nutcracker” roles as a student, including an angel, a soldier and, of course, Clara.) Together, they will dance the “Waltz of the Flowers.”

It will be a family reunion, of sorts. Bridget was the original Clara in her mum’s version of “Nutcracker.” And Remy’s brother, Thomas, will perform the title role. Mrs. Porter (which is what Bridget, and most others, call her mother) is usually at every rehearsal, putting her dancers through their paces. Recent knee surgery has kept her away this year. She will, she said, be there for dress rehearsals.

She can’t miss Remy’s first performance on her home turf since becoming a professional member of ABT.

“I’m curious to see how it will feel,” Remy said. “Will there be more pressure? My expectations are high, but I’m just going to try to enjoy every moment.”

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Remy Young, whose mother and grandmother are longtime ballet teachers in Charlotte, now dances with American Ballet Theater in New York. Courtesy of Remy Young

So will Bridget, who said, “It’s so exciting. Remy did this role as a student, and now she’s coming back to perform it again. It makes me proud, and I’m excited for these kids to have Remy as a role model.”

Remy will arrive in Charlotte for rehearsals a couple of days before the opening, having come from Cape Town, South Africa, where she’s performing. She’ll make a quick stop in New York to unpack and repack.

She says she’s eager to share the stage with the young dancers in “The Nutcracker” cast. “They put their heart and soul into doing something they love. And that’s really admirable for a kid.”

Heart and soul

She’s always put her heart and soul into dancing, too. She maintains a grueling rehearsal and performance schedule, but that’s nothing new. “She dances from her soul,” Gay Porter said. “It’s not just an outward thing. This is what she loves.”

“My mom and grandmom gave me a strong foundation,” Remy said. “I was classically trained and taught discipline and mental strength. My mom would always say: ‘Learn from others ... (but) don’t compare yourself to others.’”

That wasn’t just motherly advice for Remy. That’s Bridget’s advice to all her students. Another key lesson, from both Bridget and Gay: Eyes are essential.

“ ‘Talent is in your eyes’ is our saying,” said Bridget. Remy said Gay always told her to “dance with your eyes.”

Remy sees her grandmother’s choreography, too, in terms of vision — both Gay’s and the audience’s: “She’s good at seeing the bigger picture. Sometimes, choreography can look jumbled to an audience, but my grandmom’s makes sense. It’s soothing to the eye.”

And Remy’s not worried about confusing Gay’s “Nutcracker” with ABT’s when she performs in Charlotte. “It’s the same music, but different moves,” she said. “I’m sure my grandmother’s choreography is still in my bones.”

And in her eyes.

This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.

‘Nutcracker’

Charlotte Youth Ballet’s “Nutcracker” will be performed at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 30; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at CPCC’s Halton Theatre. Tickets start at $20. charlotteyouthballet.org.

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