Ballet Dancer Declan Wilding Cran Stars in American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

Declan Wilder Cran smiling and standing with his arms in a low rounded position

Declan Wilding Cran, 12, studies ballet in Colburn’s Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.

This interview has been edited for style, length, and clarity.

How did you get into dancing?
When I was seven, me and my mom went to go see The Nutcracker in Glendale. And when I saw the Russian dolls dancing, I just knew that I had to dance. My mum signed me up for classes after that and I have loved it ever since.

Is there another experience that influenced you to want to dance?
Also when I was four, I watched my older cousin Finn dance, and I wanted to do it. I tried a lesson, but it was all little girls in tutus and tiaras. So that discouraged me, and then when I was seven, I knew that I could see beyond the tutus and focus on dancing.

When did you start attending classes at Colburn?
I only started coming here last year during the pandemic online. It was a rough start to a new school, but it went well once I got used to it, and now that we’re back to in person learning it’s great! I really love my teachers.

Which classes did you take when you started?
When I started, I think I just took Ballet III.

So you started attending Colburn last year. Is there anything different or unique that you’ve experienced at Colburn in comparison to your former dance studio?
My old studio was more focused on choreography, less technique, and at Colburn, it’s more about technique, which is, I’d say, better for my dancing.

And why do you say technique is better for your dancing?
I love choreography, but I feel like I wasn’t getting the full movement. I wasn’t getting the technique behind the movement.

You spoke a little about choreography versus technique. Are there other areas that maybe you weren’t aware of until you started dancing at Colburn?
I think I knew about all of ballet, but I just didn’t know that it was so in-depth, in different parts. I never knew that there are so many different things you had to learn for one move or step.

How is it balancing your dance classes and your academic classes?
I go to school in Burbank, and it can be a long drive, but it’s not [negatively] affecting things; I still get my homework done. They’re going well together.

In addition to your dance life, is there another thing that you enjoy doing?
I really like animals, and I like to ride horses. Also in school, I really like music.

Oh, that’s wonderful! What kind of music do you like?
I don’t know, like alternative rock, indie rock. Currently I’m really into Nirvana.

That’s awesome! Okay, let’s go back to dance. So you’ve discussed ballet quite a bit. Are there any other genres of dance that you are interested in?
I used to do tap, and I really want to pick it up again—hopefully in the new year. Also I want to try modern.

What do you enjoy about tap?
I just like being able to move; it’s almost like a nervous energy; with tap it’s a way to let it out.

What is it about ballet that you really enjoy?
It just makes me happy. And I feel like I can get out my emotions, and it just makes me feel happy. And I like moving around.

It’s great that dance is able to give that to you. Do you see yourself continuing in dance professionally when you’re older?
I don’t really know yet.

So you have been selected as part of the cast for The Nutcracker with American Ballet Theatre. How did that come about?
We got an email from Colburn, and it said that [American Ballet Theatre] was looking for a boy about my height and my age to dance in The Nutcracker. And I thought to myself, I’m probably not going to get it, but I said, yes, and I want to get it. And I want to do the audition.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the audition was like?
I was super nervous. I thought it was going to be me by myself on a stage with like 10 people watching. But no, it was just a class with the teachers. I think there were four other boys. One of them is my friend from Colburn, and it was actually really fun, and they just picked one of us.

What role were you cast as?
I was cast as the Nutcracker prince, the Nutcracker.

And how have the rehearsals been?
They’ve been going great. They’re really fun. It’s mainly been once or twice a week, so far. But I think it’s going to get more intense, like for the tech week, it’s going to be every day.

What are you looking forward to the most about being in The Nutcracker?
I think just the experience of being in it because it’s fun, and I’m really excited to meet the company from New York.