- July 3, 2019
Zaileen Cosme danced the role of The Sugar Plum Fairy in Maxey Elementary’s 2018 performance of “The Nutcracker.” This year, she will be dancing on stage with the Central Florida Ballet.
And instead of one role, 10-year-old Zaileen will have four, dancing with the Bonbons, Pages, Soldiers and Party Girls.
She has not had any formal ballet training but has been performing with chorus and dance teams and in musicals and gymnastics for most of her life. Maxey Elementary is a performing arts magnet school, so Zaileen, who lives in Orlando, is eligible to attend the Winter Garden school. Her mother, Shaileen Robles, is a digital media instructor at nearby Orange Technical College – Westside Campus.
After dancing in Maxey’s Christmas show last year, Zaileen attended a professional performance of “The Nutcracker.”
“I was like, ‘I want to be on that stage,’” she said. “And little did I know, I found out that there was a ballet near our house and it was Central Florida Ballet, and I found out that’s where they do ‘The Nutcracker.’ I thought, ‘Why not? I’m going to try out.’ And I made it.”
While she liked participating in rhythmic gymnastics, Zaileen said it was hard work and she felt like she “wasn’t having that funness, that actual fun … and (I’m) doing all this work for them and not for me.”
She decided to give ballet a try.
Auditions were in September, and once notified, the performers began practicing immediately.
During rehearsals, she learned something from the adult dancers: “They do not play around at all. It’s very serious, and they take it very seriously. ‘OK, I know what I need to do, I know what my expectations are — to stay quiet and no talking.’”
She explained each of her roles: In Soldiers, she wields a sword to fight the rats; in Bonbons, she engages in acrobatics; in Pages, she presents the king and queen; and in Party Girls, she gets to don a fancy red dress for the Christmas Eve party.
Dancing in one of the Party Girls roles is Zaileen’s favorite of the four.
“It’s the most fun dance, and it’s also the longest,” she said.
When she isn’t dancing in the show, she is studying the others in their scenes. She loves watching Marie as she receives the nutcracker, and she is mesmerized by the graceful snow dance in Act II.
Always she is watching, learning, working to improve.
“I have shown a lot of growth,” Zaileen said. “When I was 5, maybe 6, I finally learned how to (be a) contortionist. But I wasn’t all the way. … I can touch the ground now. I can straighten my legs now.”
Zaileen expects to continue improving and has big expectations for her future.
“My goal is to be a prima ballerina, and then I can decide when I want to retire,” she said. “But until I get that spot, that prima ballerina chance — so if it’s 30 years, then it’ll be 30 years.”
Behind that goal are several others: actress, makeup artist, singer, dancer, painter, mathematician and engineer.
“I love to be the example of what is possible,” Zaileen said.
In between the rigorous rehearsal schedule with the ballet company, Zaileen is preparing for a robotics competition later this month, as well.
“I have straight A’s,” she said. “I always say education comes first. And that’s me, that’s not my parents.”
Already, her stage presence is impressive, having performed as Ariel in “The Little Mermaid” and Mayzie La Bird in “Seussical the Musical” at school; in “Aladdin” over the summer at the Maxey Community Center; in “Hairspray” at Dr. Phillips High; and with Dance Expose, Maxey Elementary’s dance team. This year’s school play is “Lion King,” and she will star in that, too.
“I love the spotlight,” Zaileen said. “You can just put the spotlight on me.”