A Convo with 'The Nutcracker' Prince
Mikhael Kinley-Safronoff has been dancing ballet since he was 8 years old.
(Credit: Courtesy of Kathryn Kinley)

Mikhael Kinley-Safronoff is a 15-year-old high school sophomore who has nabbed a role many young male ballet dancers dream of: the role of the Prince in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's famed holiday ballet, "The Nutcracker."

The Marat Daukayev School of Ballet is getting ready to put on its annual production of "The Nutcracker" at the Luckman Theater at Cal State LA, and it all begins on Dec. 7.

From a little mouse to now the Prince, Kinley-Safronoff has become one of the ballet's shining stars. Here's what he had to say about ballet and this year's production of "The Nutcracker."

Campus Circle: What inspired or encouraged you to take up ballet?
Mikhael Kinley-Safronoff: My mother said dancing was good for my body awareness and self-esteem, great for exercise and coordination (even if I didn't keep doing it as I got older). Also, I broke my femur when I was 6 years old on a scooter that I was riding up and down the streets in Paris, where I lived. Dancing helped me recover. I was also interested in football and loved jumping up and catching the ball as a wide receiver. At 12, my mom said I had to choose between ballet and football and that I couldn't do both for now. I decided to go with ballet because I thought I could always go back to football if ballet didn't work out for me. After a year, I was completely hooked.

CC: What role will you be performing in this year’s “The Nutcracker”?
MKS: My biggest role will be on Dec. 8 when I perform the lead role of the Prince in "The Nutcracker."  I will also be the featured dancer in Spanish, Tarentella, Cavalier and Dew Drop.

CC: How did you prepare for the role? What was the audition process like?
MKS: The only way to prepare is practice, practice, practice, eat and sleep well, and practice again. The audition process is always a stressful and nervous time. All your friends are trying hard to get the role of their dreams. You want to get the best part you can, but you also want your friends to do well too. It's a lot of sweating, breathing hard, concentration and passion that goes into each audition and eventually, rehearsal.

CC: Were you in “The Nutcracker” production last year? If so, what role did you perform?
MKS: I have been in the past six shows! I began as a mouse, a party boy, the mischievous brother Fritz, then graduated to Russian puppet, Chinese, the little Nutcracker, a parent and the Snow Cavalier. As of this year, I will have played every major male role in the production. Now, the Prince!

CC: What are you most excited for regarding this year’s production?
MKS: I am most excited about learning and perfecting a new role, the Prince, since it's a difficult part to dance. I'm also looking forward to tech week. All of us love to get onto the theatre the week before and dance, laugh and eat a lot.

CC: How often do you and your fellow ballet dancers rehearse for this year’s show? How many days out of the week and how many hours?
MKS: At this point, we are rehearsing six days a week, and I've lost track of the hours. Probably, it averages 25 hours a week.

CC: What has been your favorite experience while working on “The Nutcracker”?
: My favorite part of "The Nutcracker" is working with Marat [Daukayev] and Hasmik [Amirian-Bennet] perfecting our dances and being with all my close friends. The very best part is when I hear the music of Tchaikovsky, the applause of the audience and finally when I get on stage under the bright spotlights. It's magic.

CC: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding “The Nutcracker” or ballet in general?
MKS: Marat and all the teachers are incredible. I feel like I have grown up at the studio. I have made friends that will last a lifetime, and I'm sure we will be together in some way the rest of our lives. When I say I go to the Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre, people know who he is. The school was named as L.A.'s best. I agree 100 percent. Finally, ballet isn't easy. My body is my instrument, and it will take years of getting into the shape and conditioning I need. I dream to make it as a professional and dance on the stage for the entire world.

By the way, go see the new documentary, Road to the Nutcracker on Friday, Nov. 29. I'm one of the featured dancers, and of course get tickets to "The Nutcracker" at the Luckman Theatre!

"The Nutcracker" will have student performances on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Dec 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. The Gala performances will take place on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. and will include guest stars Marie Kochetkova and Joaquin De Luz.

All performances will take place at Cal State L.A.'s Luckman Fine Arts Complex (5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles.)

To purchase tickets, click here.