9-Year-Old With Rare Disability To Perform In ‘The Nutcracker’ At OKC Civic Center


Thursday, December 8th 2022, 7:04 pm



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For decades, the Nutcracker has been a seasonal staple of the Oklahoma City Ballet, but this year there's a brand-new role.

It was created for a young performer who refused to give up her dream to reach the Civic Center stage.

A classic can capture the imagination of those like 9-year-old Olivia Francis.

“The dance, the music, I love everything about it,” Olivia said.

Her mom, Mary, said she’s been going to the performance since she was 4.

“In 1st grade we were given this paper asking us to write down what our dream was,” Olivia recalls. “I said to be in ‘The Nutcracker’.”

That dream began before the diagnosis.

“It’s called Friedreich’s Ataxia, it affects about 15,000 people nationwide,” Mary said. “It’s rare. There’s no treatment. There’s no cure.”

The progressive and degenerative neurological condition requires Olivia to use a walker or a wheelchair.

“You can take a diagnosis, and you can cry about or not do anything about it,” Mary said. “My goal is to go make her life happy.”

Mary knew just how. She called the Oklahoma City Ballet.

“They immediately reached out and said we’d like to meet Olivia. They invited us to one of the performances of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.”

Backstage at the performance in May, Artistic Director Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye stopped rehearsal and offered Olivia a part in the Nutcracker.

“I just cried,” Mary recalled. “I cried tears of joy. Olivia cried tears of joy. I think some of the ballerinas were crying.”

Performing in a vintage wheelchair, she'll be in the first act of every show Dec. 10-18.

“I cry at almost every rehearsal,” Mary said. “It’s just watching them do this, and watching the dancers interact with her, talk to her.”

The show still captures imagination.

“It says to my daughter you can be anything you want to be.”

It was imagination that fulfilled a dream.

To purchase tickets, click here.

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