FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Following Thanksgiving, and nestled between the rush to make holiday preparations and the eminent New Year, comes a seasonal staple -- the "Nutcracker." The ballet, as performed by the North Carolina State Ballet has entertained thousands at the Crown Center, Dec. 4, 10 and 11.

Performing notably among the cast of more than 60 trained dancers were the daughters of some Fort Bragg servicemembers.

Ashley Watters, daughter of 82nd Airborne Division's Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeff Watters, who is deployed to Afghanistan has danced ballet for more than 11 years. This is her second season performing the Nutcracker.

Ashley began her dancing journey at Fort Bragg.

"I began dancing at a little place on-post at Tolson Youth Center," said Ashley.

Erin Rafferty, 11, daughter of Lt. Col. John Rafferty, commander of the 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, has danced with the N.C. State Ballet for nearly two years. Erin also played multiple roles in the production including the head mouse, child and as one of the clowns, which she admits was her favorite.
"I liked doing all of the cartwheels!" said Erin, smiling widely.

Used to being impressed by a different kind of performance, expert airborne artillery troopers, Rafferty said he was impressed with the ballet troupe's performance on Dec. 4.

"I got to be backstage supporting tonight and what I didn't realize was how everything runs so precisely," Rafferty said of the familiar military precision he witnessed from backstage. He said he expected it to be more hectic, but everyone knew right where to be, when to costume change, and what he or she was supposed to be doing.

Also featured prominently in the performance, directed and choreographed by Charlotte Blume, was Anne Talkington, 17, an 11-year member of the N.C. Ballet, and daughter of Mark Talkington, a retired colonel. "It was getting the opportunity to perform with the "Prince" from the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh," said Anne about the evenings highlight for her. "He's professional."

Sarah Middleton, 13, daughter of Lt. Col. Dan Middleton, of the XVIII Airborne Corps, danced the 'Spanish Variation' and the 'Waltz of the Flowers'. Smiling following the opening show, Sarah said it was, "the adrenaline of performing" in front of friends and Family that got her excited.

Paris Sullivan and Lauryn Meehl, both 11, and Rebekah St. Cyr, 13, account for more than 18 years of dance experience between them, each is the daughter of Fort Bragg Soldiers and each danced to the delight of the audience.