GLEN ROCK, New Jersey At age of 4, Carrie Peterson of the Caldwell New Jersey Stake danced in the kitchen and dreamed of being a ballerina.
Today, as a dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, she is living out her dreams during the holidays, performing the lead in the holiday classic, "The Nutcracker," a timeless, classical ballet that has become a symbol of the Christmas holidays throughout the world. She has also performed the lead roles in The Firebird, The Sleeping Beauty, Etudes and The Snow Maiden, and a number of other prominent presentations.
Carrie Peterson made her childhood dreams come true through the support of her family, faith and the Sugar Plum Fairy. In the Peterson home, "The Nutcracker" meant something special to the 4-year-old, who decided that she wanted to dance. Since then, Carrie has gone from performing in "The Nutcracker" in tiny studios throughout northern New Jersey, to dancing in the finest dance halls around the world with her troupe, the American Ballet Theatre. This year, she is performing in the nation's capital and in Los Angeles, proving once again that dreams, with work, do come true.
She fondly recalls dancing in her kitchen with her sister Lori.
"I remember when Lori and I got tutus for Christmas," Carrie said. "We would dance in the kitchen because there was a little more space. Lori would pretend to be Clara and I would pretend to be Fritz and we would dance to the music of 'The Nutcracker' or to the drums that my dad would play. We still enjoy dancing together even today."
Besides dancing with her sister Lori, Carrie has had great support from her family. From taking her to practice sometimes six days a week to clapping loudly in the audience, her family has always been there for her.
"My dad used to make the scenery for our performances and my mother would make the costumes," Carrie said. "I can still remember how much work my dad put into making the huge tree for 'The Nutcracker.' I think that was the hardest thing he every constructed; it certainly was the biggest.
"Now that I dance for ABT, my parents can actually enjoy the performance from the audience and not worry about lighting or who has the right costume."
Carrie's love of dance started early. "I always enjoyed ballet," she said. "When I was young, I would watch dancing on TV and try to imitate the steps."
Carrie started lessons when she was 5 years old with Helena Baron at her School of Ballet in Ridgewood, N.J. Ms. Baron had studied in Russia, and Carrie remembers her as a very inspiring teacher who cared about her students.
As a teenager, Carrie spent three summers on scholarship with the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive program. At the end of the third summer, she was asked to join the American Ballet Studio Company of twelve dancers. Only six girls and six boys were selected from the United States and other countries. This could lead to joining the major company.
Carrie had to make a tough decision. Should she finish her senior year of high school and go to college or become a full-time ballerina? As a straight "A" student, she worked hard and earned enough credits to graduate by the end of December. The teenager joined the ABT in January 1999, but returned to graduate with her class at the Glen Rock High School in June.
The Church has played an important part of Carrie's success.
"Dancing for me is a gift and a talent from my Heavenly Father," she said. "I think He wants me to use that blessing to the best of my ability."
While a high school student, she gained great spiritual strength from completing seminary. Now, as she travels with ABT, she strives to set an example for her colleagues by living Church standards.
"My friends have started to answer 'no' for me when I am asked if I want a drink," she said. "When I am asked why I don't drink, it is an opportunity to tell them about the Church."
In the Fardale Ward, she serves faithfully in the nursery.
"I try to teach my students by being a good example," said Carrie. "The best lesson I could ever teach my little friends at Church is by living my testimony of caring and service. That is not just a message for Christmas time. That is something I should do the whole year through."
When not traveling, Carrie enjoys living with her parents, Alan and Patricia Peterson, and her sisters Christina and Lori.
In the future, Carrie would like to go to college, have a family of her own and go on a mission in her later years. But for now, she is happy spending time with her parents and sisters while simply enjoying the holidays.