Nutcracker performer returns to her roots: Anna Maravelias wants to use dance to help those struggling emotionally

Anjuli Mishra, 7, rehearses for her role in Peninsula Ballet Theatre’s 43rd annual Nutcracker in the same costume worn by Anna Maravelias, children’s rehearsal mistress, when she performed with the company as a child.

With hopes of one day using her dance abilities to heal others, Anna Maravelias is currently acting as the children’s ballet mistress for Peninsula Ballet Theatre.

Maravelias, a graduate of Carlmont High School in Belmont, grew up on the Peninsula with her younger brother and participated in the San Mateo theater group’s production of the Nutcracker herself from the age of 7 to 17. Now, she works to set up all the choreography for this season’s performance of The Nutcracker.

“Since I started teaching here and had such as unique insight, it was kind of an easy transition,” said Maravelias, who lives in San Mateo. “It’s just a real honor.”

She started rehearsing every weekend with the 37 children in September and she said it’s great because the children get a chance to perform with the professionals. Currently, Maravelias, 28, is wrapping up her bachelor’s degree in dance from San Francisco State University where she focused on understanding physiology of dance, while also taking electives in childhood psychology.

“I started dancing when I was 2 and a half,” she said. “My parents just tried me in all the normal sports and that’s where I found the most joy, so I just kept dancing. As I’ve kind of moved on, I’ve found that movement has been the best way to articulate things that don’t necessarily have words. I want to be able to share that with anyone.”

She plans to move on to a graduate program in psychology where she wants to concentrate on using dance and art as a means to heal combat soldiers when they return from active duty. This was born out of her own personal experience, as she said she is a widow of a special operations Army ranger who was killed in the line of duty back in 2012 after a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after he did three tours overseas.

“It’s a key demographic,” she said. “I want to open it up to anyone who can move.”

People are becoming more aware of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression post-war, she said. Treatment is still pretty inaccessible though, she added.

“It extends to the point of what’s covered by veterans benefits and what’s not,” she said. “I would want to work with patients knowing it’s helping people rather than making a profit. … I think everyone can benefit from it.”

In the future, she hopes to open a private therapy practice and continue teaching dance. She teaches 10 ballet classes at the dance company’s school right now.

“The most rewarding thing is to see the joy the kids have coming in,” Maravelias said. “Being able to say, ‘this was the first dress I wore,’ knowing how much it meant to me. … When I grew up, dancing was always just for enjoyment and pleasure and I realized I loved teaching and kids.”

A mantra of Maravelias’ is that any time her students have a challenge, she tells them to never to say they can’t do something, but rather she wants them to say, “Miss Anna, I need help.”

“Everyone has a challenge and asking for help is not difficult,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s a really good lesson to ask for help.”

Choreography for the upcoming shows comes from Carlos Carvajal and artistic direction will be coming from David Fonnegra. The Nutcracker Sweet, a 45-minute abbreviated version of the show, runs 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7 at Peninsula Ballet Theatre at 1880 S. Grant St. in San Mateo. The 11 a.m. Dec. 6 performance is sold out. Adult tickets are $25, while children’s tickets are $20. The full-length show runs 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 20, 2 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22 at the Fox Theatre at 2215 Broadway in Redwood City. Tickets range from $30 to $65. For more information, go to peninsulaballet.org.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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