As a child, Chyrstyn Fentroy never dreamed she would have a career in dancing, even though she came to see how valuable dance was in easing a particular problem she had — social anxiety.
"Forever growing up, I always had a really hard time communicating with people," she said. "... When I got older, I realized that I could use dance as my way of communication and my way to make people feel an emotion that I'm feeling.
"When I'm able to make somebody else feel something through my dancing, it's a really powerful feeling and beautiful connection that you can build with the audience. It's like an art for me now rather than a sport or hobby."
And now, the 24-year-old New York resident, who has been dancing since age 2, is also receiving public recognition for her abilities. The January 2015 issue of Dance Magazine named her one of the top 25 dancers to watch, noting her "cameleon-like adaptability and technical prowess."
But she never forgot her connection to Orange County and will be performing in "The Nutcracker" at Studio Fusion in Huntington Beach, the dance studio where Fentroy's mother, a professional dancer, used to teach.
When she was growing up, Fentroy would watch her mother. The daughter also took classes at various studios — the family lived in Los Angeles — learning dance techniques and ways to help her self-confidence.
It wasn't until she was a teenager, when she attended her first intensive class for ballet one summer, that she learned just how much she enjoyed dancing and considered it being more than an avocation.
But coming to that realization later than her peers — serious dancers usually begin studying the craft intensely as pre-teens — meant that she had to work that much harder to get to her goals.
"When I decided to train in ballet full-time, I realized that I was a lot older than a lot of the other girls I was training with," she said. "A lot of the other girls who were at my level were a lot younger than me, and the girls who were my age were much more advanced. Realizing that kind of pushed me to work a lot harder."
She moved from Los Angeles to New York when she was 18 to work and study at a dance studio, where she would spend most of her free time.
"I would spend extra time working in the studio and spend other time watching dance videos online," she said. "I put in so much more work than I think a lot of other people did, and that helped me. It was after I did that that I really started reaching my talent and my potential."
Now, she rehearses eight hours a day five to six times a week.
Fentroy, who tours the world with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, will perform at Studio Fusion in its annual "Nutcracker" performance Dec. 10 through 12 at the Huntington Beach Library. She'll be the Sugar Plum Fairy, the ruler of the Land of Sweets who is one of the main focuses of the second act.
Although she has performed in the Christmas-themed ballet "countless" times, including three times as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Fentroy said she never gets tired of the "Nutcracker" and it always gets her excited about the holiday season.
She said she wanted to come back to Studio Fusion for the performance because of her fond memories of the studio and desire to perform for a hometown audience.
"I'm excited to come home to Southern California for this show," she said. "It will be really nice to be able to perform for an audience that maybe doesn't ever really get to see me dance and to able to inspire some of the younger dancers that I'll be dancing alongside."
Cindy Cairo, owner of Studio Fusion, said she is excited to have Fentroy join the seasonal performance.
"It's an amazing opportunity for us," she said. "Her credentials are just superb. It's awesome to get her, as a professional ballerina, to come in with our non-professional dancers, and they get the opportunity to see her in action."