Growing up in North Plains, 15-year-old Alexia Lipscomb begged her mother to take her to dance and ballet classes. She remembers gravitating towards the stage, learning more and more about ballet, one plie at a time.
Lipscomb bounced from one studio to another until joining the Portland Ballet this year. She was soon cast as a waitress in the company's performance of "Petrushka."
"You have a bunch of acting, which I really, really like," Lipscomb said. "That's one of my favorite parts about the performance, is just being able to be on stage and reacting to other stuff that's going on."
The heartwrenching performance is a homage to Portland and is Tom Gold's world premiere of "Petrushka" and John Clifford's "Firebird." As for the music, the all-Stravinsky program will be performed live by the Portland State University Orchestra.
The Russian folktale with a modern twist is set during Thanksgiving dinner at the historical Heathman Hotel in the 1950s. An immigrant busboy named Petrushka is in love with a lounge singer, who in turn is in love with a debonair doorman.
The Portland Ballet's artistic director, Nancy Davis, said the audience will see a melding of the traditional version of "Petrushka" with a more modern Hawaiian theme.
"The waitresses (have) got a tray of food," said Davis. "They're dressed in a very Hawaiian motif costume and they carry a tray of food. They do kind of a hula with their hips."
Davis chuckled when she mentioned how difficult the choreography was the younger dancers, who can be as young as 8.
"We bring in professional choreographers with stellar backgrounds … they did not make the choreography easier for these kids," she remarked.
But Davis said she's excited to see young dancers such as Lipscomb blossom on stage.
"I think for me, (it's) watching the process and just being so proud of what these dancers, these young dancers are accomplishing," she said. "To then be able to see the fruits of everyone's labor during the performances — I just feel such pride."
Lipscomb agreed the choreography has been a struggle, but she thinks it has made her a stronger dancer overall.
"Last year, I was at a different studio, and I just don't feel like I went that far," she said. "I've come the same distance in the now three months that I came like all of last year. ... I've seen huge improvements in my techniques since I came to TPB."
As a sophomore at Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton, Lipscomb balances her dreams of becoming a doctor with her rigorous schedule at the studio. As a level six ballet dancer, she spends hours at either ballet classes or at "Petruska" rehearsals multiple evenings per week.
For most high schoolers, that would be a lot to volunteer for, but she doesn't shy away from the long hours of practice and schooling.
"I've always been kind of motivated and driven, so I don't really know what I'm going to do, but I know that I have dreams," said Lipscomb. "How I'm going to achieve them is more up in the air."
In the meantime, the North Plains native plans on doing what she does best: perform in front of an audience.
"I used to have a teacher that would be like, 'You have to pay attention in (ballet) class too,'" said Lipscomb as she fought back a laugh. "'It's not just about the performing all the time.' But that was the thing that really drew me to dance. That's the reason why I dance is for the performance."
"Petrushka" will be Lipscomb's first performance with The Portland Ballet.
The show will be performed over Thanksgiving weekend. It opens Friday, Nov. 29, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Lincoln Performance Hall at Portland State University, located at 1620 S.W. Park St.
There will be two performances per day, one starting at 1 p.m. and another at 5 p.m. Tickets for the program start at $10.
For more information, visit theportlandballet.org.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story did not correctly spell Alexia Lipscomb's last name. Lipscomb's last name has been corrected.
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