Star in The Nutcracker says dance helps her get through hard times without her father

Gabriela Schiefer is a local ballet star

TAMPA - This weekend you can see The Nutcracker at the Straz Center, and the girl who is playing Clara, has a unique story.

Gabriela Schiefer says she feels like she is dancing in a dream. The teen has been dancing just four years, and she already snagged a crucial role in The Nutcracker.

Peter Stark, the artistic director of Next Generation Ballet, knows Gabriela was the right choice.

"Gabi is really such an amazing actress and is able to tap into emotions because within the role there's happy, angry, sad, there's in love, and she's able to do all of those things," Stark said.

One reason Gabriela may be able to tap into those emotions is because she has had to deal with a lot as a kid.

"I'm used to it, but it's still hard," Gabriela said.

Gabriela's dad Brian, is in Afghanistan. The first lieutenant will not be home until next summer.

Mom Courtney says dance helps the entire family focus on something else.

"It has brought a kind of distraction away from the hard time we're going through as a family with my husband gone," Courtney said.

Gabriela practices six days a week for about eight to nine hours a day. She says she is proud of her dad, but she knows he is proud of her too.

"I always tell him about how much fun it is and how happy I am to dance the role," Gabriela said. "He's proud of me for all that's happened."
 
Being a military family, the Schiefer's have had to move around a lot.  Not too long ago, the family moved from Tampa to Texas. However, because Gabriela missed dancing at the Straz Center, the Schiefer's moved back.

"When I see her dance, I see the joy, I know we made the right decision," Courtney said.

Now that Gabriela is one of the stars in The Nutcracker, Courtney says she believes it was her daughters destiny to get the part.

"When she auditioned and became Clara, it just felt like it was meant to be," Courtney said.

For more information on The Nutcracker, go to: http://www.strazcenter.org

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