CLINTON TOWNSHIP -- Two young stars are rising from one
This holiday season, sisters Paige and Ashley Willming both earned
roles with major shows in downtown Detroit. Ashley, 11, performed with
the Joffrey Ballet in "The Nutcracker" at the Detroit Opera House, while
eight-year-old Paige earned a walk-on role with the Rockettes at the
Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Fox Theatre.
Ashley performed in "The Nutcracker" earlier this month, while Paige
participated in the "Christmas Spectacular" during a matinee last week.
Both girls said these were the biggest audiences they've ever faced.
"I was excited," Ashley said about her performances. "We danced, but
it was more acting." She played the role of a child attending a party in
the first act of "The Nutcracker."
"Before the show started, they introduced me," Paige said about her
experience with the Christmas Spectacular. "I was in the live nativity
scene. I had a lot of fun." Instead of feeling nervous, she said, "I
Dancing runs in the Willming family. The girls' mother, Alane, 41,
danced from ages 3-18.
About 200 children auditioned for a walk-on role during the Christmas
Spectacular, and Paige was one of two selected. The other was 7-year-old
Zoe Harris of Detroit. Paige and Zoe were selected because they "had
good stage presence and showmanship," said Lauren Campbell, of Olympia
Entertainment, which operates the Fox Theatre. Campbell said the live
nativity scene involved the entire cast of the Christmas Spectacular,
including the donkey, sheep and camels.
Some 150 children auditioned for "The Nutcracker," and 70 were
selected "completely upon ability and stage presence," said Dave
Blackburn, of the Michigan Opera Theatre, which operates the Detroit
Alane and her husband, Kurt Willming, 38, and their two daughters
recently moved from Warren to Clinton Township. The girls now attend
Walt Disney Elementary in the Fraser Public Schools system. Alane said
the school has supported her daughters' performing schedules by allowing
them to do schoolwork outside of the usual school hours. Ashley said she
was allowed to go to school only in the morning for the week before "The
"The girls are new to us this year and they're delightful," said
Jennifer McGuire, principal of the elementary. Ashley is in sixth grade.
Paige is a third-grader. "Both girls are extremely bright. Our policy is
that family vacations and extracurriculars are important. We believe
kids can learn beyond school walls. Can you imagine the learning
opportunity for these girls? It's the opportunity of a lifetime."
Both girls have spent years preparing for their onstage
opportunities. They attend Tina Marie's School of Dance in Warren near
Chicago Road, where Ashley started at age 3 and Paige at age 2. They
dance competitively and have won awards in regional competitions. Ashley
practices at the dance school 15-20 hours a week.
Paige logs in about 12 hours of weekly practice, said Alane, and
takes both group and solo lessons at the school. Coincidentally, Alane
said, she won a solo dance competition with a routine called "I Want to
Be a Rockette" before she knew she'd actually be on stage with the
Alane said her daughters don't ever seem to tire of dancing. Alane
and Kurt are creating a dance area for the girls in the basement of
their new home. It will include a special dance floor.
"They'd dance 24 hours a day if I'd let them," she said.
Cindy Hampel is a Metro Detroit freelance