Liv Isaacs-Nollet was destined to be a dancer. She came by those terpsichorean tendencies naturally--from both branches of her family tree.
Liv's mother, Jean Isaacs, is Three's Company's artistic director and a leader in San Diego's dance community. Though Isaac's dancing days are over now, she was a charismatic performer here for years and is now a prolific choreographer who turns out some of the city's best original modern works.
Liv's father, Patrick Nollet, 40, remains a distinguished San Diego-based dancer easily straddling both the classical and modern sides of the dance world. He performs periodically with Three's Company, the modern dance troupe he co-founded 16 years ago, and dances principal roles with the California Ballet.
Last week, while other 12-year-olds were frolicking on the beach, Liv was getting her professional feet wet playing an urchin for her first role in a major theatrical production.
The eighth-grader will make her Starlight debut Thursday in "Carousel," and she is determined to continue the family tradition with style.
"I've never done any professional theater," said the leggy youngster in a brief respite from an all-day rehearsal schedule, "and it's really exciting."
The fledgling dancer will be a new face to most Starlight-goers when she romps with the "Carousel" cast, but Cal Ballet regulars should recognize her lithe body and elfin face from small-fry roles she has played in the troupe's annual "Nutcracker."
Liv worked her way up the ranks--from one of the tiny bonbons when she was just 5, to her first appearance on pointe in last year's production.
"But this is very different," she said of the Starlight production.
"This (requires) more discipline. I'm learning a lot. There's no fooling around here."
Liv must be a quick learner. She was all business in her workout with choreographer Francelle Fuller on a steamy afternoon in Balboa Park. Liv threw herself into the big dance number with a vengeance, cavorting across the rehearsal space.
"In this part as a ragamuffin, all her years of ballet training will go out the window," Fuller noted with a warm laugh. "But in the rest of the show, Liv has to use her dance training."
Although Liv doesn't speak any lines in the production, one number, a trio in the dream sequence, offers Liv her best opportunity to strut her stuff.
"I stay on until the carnival scene starts," said Liv, her eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree, "and with only three of us on stage, I'll stand out a little--and I get to sing."
Liv began her ballet training at age 3. Cal Ballet's Denise Dabrowski let her tag along with her at the studio, "and I would do everything the other kids did. But I was the youngest one there. The rest were at least 4, and some were 5."
Since then, Liv has maintained a rigorous schedule of ballet lessons, up to five days a week these days.
"I want to be able to continue my dancing and singing--and if I could support myself, I'd love to. But I'm definitely going to college. My parents keep telling me you have to be prepared to do something else."
Her single-minded dedication to learning her craft was obvious at the Starlight rehearsal--even after Liv's part of the action was over. While other youngsters in the show giggled and gabbed on the sidelines, Liv's quiet, penetrating gaze remained fixed on the dancing, and on the choreographer who called the shots.
When it was Liv's turn to make an entrance, she used her pixie charm, turning cartwheels and playing leap-frog with other "urchins" in the cast. But she admits she lacks musical theater training.
"I didn't get interested in singing or acting till I was about 9 or 10," Liv recalled. "A friend introduced me to Junior Theater, and my dad did a couple of things" with Starlight, SDSU and the San Diego Rep, to name a few.
But, like her parents, Liv's focus is primarily on dance.
"Now I don't really have time for other things, so I had to stop taking acting and singing lessons."
Liv spends much of her free time in the ballet studio--or soaking up modern dance at Three's Company's studio--but she has managed to maintain an excellent academic record.
"Liv was ranked No. 1 among 415 kids in her seventh-grade class at Black Mountain Middle School," her mother boasted.
Liv said she is diligent by necessity.
"If I don't keep up my grades, my parents will make me stop my dancing."