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Matt Elementary student in Atlanta Ballets Nutcracker
Nutcracker---in-costume WEB
Matt Elementary student Jillian Archer, 9, is performing in the Atlanta Ballets Nutcracker. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Nutcracker Podcast

NORTH FORSYTH -- Seven-year-old Jillian Archer knew as soon as the nesting dolls appeared onstage at the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker she wanted to play the baby nesting doll in the dance company’s performance.

That was two years ago.

This year, the Forsyth County resident, now 9, has accomplished that goal, cast in the very role she told her mother and older sister she would one day play.

The ballet, which opened Friday at the Fox Theater, features live music from the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra.

Heather Archer, Jillian’s mother and a teacher at Matt Elementary School, said she first took her two elder girls to the ballet during the company’s 2014 winter season.

“After the nesting dolls scene, Jillian looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to do that,’” Archer said. “I knew she would because she’s very determined about everything.”

Luck was in the Archer’s favor, as the ballet’s only open casting auditions were for nesting doll roles.

All other positions are required to be filled from within the company.

“She wanted to be the baby nesting doll because the baby does the most tumbling,” Archer said. “That’s [why] she wanted that specific nesting doll.”

Jillian, who has been practicing ballet since age 3, began tumbling — floor gymnastics — at age 5, her mother said.

“I think that’s why they have open auditions,” Archer said. “Most ballerinas don’t tumble; usually kids will do one or the other and [Jillian] does both. [Performers] have to have certain tumbling skills and ballet skills to fill this particular role.”

Auditions were held in September, and the family travelled to Atlanta so Jillian could try out.

“She auditioned on a Saturday and there were tons of people — you don’t know what to expect,” Archer said. “She’d never been there before; she’s never been in a situation of auditioning for something that big. [But] Monday afternoon they sent us an email telling us she was given a role.”

A few days later, during casting, Jillian was given the role of the baby nesting doll – something she said she knew she could do.

“When my grandma and mom took me to the nutcracker and I saw those nesting dolls come out, I was like, ‘well, I can do that,’” she said. “I get just a little nervous that I may mess up but I know I won’t and I’ll do great.”

Jillian, who performs in cheerleading competitions, said she also has some past experience being onstage, which makes her excited for her performances.

“I’ve been in two plays before and I know the feeling of being out there, and seeing all those people is just really cool,” she said. “They’re all watching you, and compared to those other girls, I’m always the smallest, so they’re always looking at me and I know to do my best.

“It just feels great when you’re out there because you’re doing that thing that you love.”

The Nutcracker runs until Dec. 24, with multiple performances on weekends and some weekday showings.

For more information and tickets, visit