Talent from out of town

With only three days of rehearsals under his belt, Tiit Helimets will be the Cavalier in "The Nutcracker" this weekend. A San Francisco Ballet principal dancer, Helimets is more than ready.

He trained at the Tallinn Ballet School then became a soloist with the Estonian National Ballet before moving onto the Birmingham Royal Ballet. He joined the San Francisco Ballet in 2005, according to their website.

His company wouldn't normally want him to do a side project, but this one didn't really interfere and he only has one partner there, he said.

But here, it's another story. He has two partners, 15-year-old Lauren Denney and 18-year-old Quinn Mason, who share the role of Sugar Plum Fairy.

He hopes to keep in contact with all the students he's worked with at Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy because he likes to inspire dancers and give them hope.

Dancing may be his career, but his face lights up when he mentions his family, a 10-month-old daughter and his wife.

I asked if he wanted his daughter to follow in his footsteps.

"I believe dance is good for them, it's wonderful and active, but I want her to have a normal life," he said. "I'm challenged with my lifestyle, but I love it."

His wife retired from dancing two years ago and is now a law student.

"What she does is harder," he said. "She thought they would teach her how to be a lawyer, but she found out they would teach her how to think like a lawyer."

On his home, he says, "It's a unique city. I love it," but some day he wants to live somewhere with a lot of seasons, where the summer isn't too hot and there's a nice autumn, a place where kids can experience nature, climb trees, a place where they can learn to garden like he did while growing up in Estonia.

"I grew up with a green house," he said. "To grow your own potatoes and go half an hour before dinner and pull one from the earth — it tastes so different."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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