A Dream Come True

Ballet Aligned is SO PLEASED to be a part of making dance dreams come true! This semester we are celebrating with Jaycee Preece, who was awarded the role of Clara in Ballet West’s Nutcracker – finally after auditioning for the role for 5 years!

Jaycee as Gretel in Ballet Aligned’s Hansel and Gretel

You may recognize Jaycee from her role as Gretel in Ballet Aligned’s Hansel and Gretel this April. From then until now, Jaycee has ALSO placed as “Runner Up” in the Hollywood dance Jams Teen Dancer of the Year National competition in Orlando, Florida this summer, made the Dance Jams DJ company for this next 2024 season (she will travel with the company as an assistant in the teen room), and performed as “Wendy” in Salt Contemporary Dance’s final productions of “Pan” this summer. Despite this busy schedule, she always makes time for ballet. Jaycee said, “Ballet is very disciplined and strict, where other styles of dance are more free.” Often it is the discipline and attention to fine details that make ballet dancers so successful in all dance forms.

Jaycee at a Hollywood Dance Jams competition.

Jaycee’s mom, Lisa Preece (owner of Dance Illusion), has been one of Jaycee’s main instructors and biggest fans. When at age 5, Jaycee saw the Nutcracker and new she wanted to be Clara, Lisa supported the dream. She said, “I knew how much this meant to her and so I put her in every class we could! I researched different training options in ballet and cross training in other styles to help her to continue to improve. I even looked for acting opportunities to help her in that aspect as well!”

NOT being chosen after so many attempts was hard on them both, especially after coming SO CLOSE: Jaycee was the last dancer to be cut last year and this year worried she was too tall for the role. But she was encouraged to audition, and after a pow-wow with us on mindset, it was decided she could brave another potential heartbreak and go for it! Of course, the success after a long wait and a lot of work is all the sweeter, so we asked Jaycee and her mom, Lisa, to share their thoughts about the journey with us.

Ballet Aligned: Tell us about the times when you weren’t cast as Clara.
Jaycee: Every year I didn’t get it, it was harder and harder because I knew time was running out!
Lisa: It was hard to see the amount of time and dedication she was putting in and not seeing it work out in her favor over and over again. I was inspired by her determination that she was not letting it break her! 

BA: When you thought you wouldn’t be Clara, why didn’t you quit ballet, or at least work less hard at it?
Jaycee: I love ballet no matter what and I know everything happens for a reason! It motivated me to work harder in all aspects of ballet! I never gave up and continued to train on the small details to have bigger results! I enrolled in more classes and trained with more teachers! You can never have too much ballet training! I know the wait was worth it because I now get to be Clara in Ballet Wests 60th anniversary of the Nutcracker this year! 

BA: Behind every Clara, and every successful dancer, is an amazing support of capable teachers AND parents willing to sacrifice. Lisa, you fill both roles for Jaycee. Tell us about that.
Lisa: Sometimes this is hard! It’s hard to be the mom and also one of her dance teachers! I have had to learn to balance supporting her in her dreams and goals with pushing her when she is in the studio. I have also searched for her to work with a lot of great teachers! She would have only made it so far with me! The schedule is a little crazy, to be honest. She has rehearsal in SLC 4-5 times a week as well as us trying to have her in her regular classes training as much as she can. With us living in Cache Valley and my husband and I both working full time, it is a challenge! We spend a lot of time in the car listening to audio books on the drive! We are very appreciative for the help and support we are getting from others! 

BA: Jaycee, what are you most excited for about this role? And is there anything that scares you about a part this big?
Jaycee:  I know this is a big role and so I just want to know everything perfect so I can do my very best in every show! I’m excited about getting to fly in the air in the sleigh, wearing the beautiful tutu, and being able to watch all of the variations performed every night in front of me on stage in the 2nd act! 

Lisa summed up journey to this point perfectly when she said, “Jaycee had a dream, and she never gave up! We know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for her and I love that she can see that hard work can pay off! It may not be on our timeline always, but in the end it has worked out for the best: she gets to perform her dream role, on the greatest stage in Utah, alongside the professional Ballet West company dancers, on an anniversary year! It doesn’t get any better than that! I am beyond proud of her!” 

Ballet Aligned is proud of Jaycee too, and privileged to be a part of making so many dreams come true. Pursuing dance dreams IS a journey! Most inspiring is the skill and strength gained along the way: the power to persevere, the grace to get up and try again, the growth that comes from stretching to reach the stars. These can be the outcomes for EVERY dancer who puts in the work! This is OUR dream for our dancers. This is what Ballet Aligned is all about.