Unlike many of his fellow students who call Carlisle home, his family hadn’t moved to the borough to seek out what Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet could offer.

His father was in the military, and that was what brought Rylan Doty to the area. He had his eyes on football, while his sister was the one who ended up at the nationally-acclaimed ballet school in Carlisle.

It wasn’t until a chance meeting with school founder Marcia Dale Weary—and her eagerness in seeing him in the role of the Prince in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker”—that had Rylan seriously considering ballet. When he saw a neighbor at the Carlisle Barracks take up that “Nutcracker” role in a performance with his sister, Rylan’s mind was set. The scholarship offer from Weary didn’t hurt, either.

He admits, however, he thought it would have been easier.

“I didn’t realize it would be that hard,” Rylan laughed. “I came back after the first day hating fifth position.”

That day was about four years ago, and Rylan, now 14, is one of the title characters in CPYB’s next production—Alan Hineline’s “Hansel and Gretel.”

Though his character is closer to the age he was when he first started ballet, Rylan embraces the change of pace from his more proper roles over the years—including that role of the Prince he performed his first year with the school.

“Not only is the dancing a challenge, but I (also get) to strengthen my acting,” he said. “With Hansel, you still have that (classical) ballet but with a light, playful feel.”

Hineline echoed that view of what sets the children’s tale apart from other CPYB productions. Hineline choreographed the ballet, and this weekend’s performances will be the third time it will hit the stage of the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.

“The task here is to make sure the story is as clear as possible,” Hineline said. “Dancing is almost secondary. After all the choreography is staged, we really dig in and start working on the dramatic part of the story.”

The story again pits two children against the formidable foe of a witch in the woods. Rylan is one of two Hansels in two separate casts who will perform over two days.

Though Hineline had choreographed the ballet and introduced it in 2010, and CPYB again performed it in 2014, he noted that this year fit with the current students he had available to him.

“These kids are always amazing,” he said. “We have two casts that are perfecting their roles. They’re all in different places in their training. They’re terrific.”

For Rylan, that training continues. Though he’s had other major roles before—he danced as the Bluebird in CPYB’s “The Sleeping Beauty”—he also plans to work hard and prepare for a future career in ballet.

“When I’m older, I want to audition (for ballet companies) and try to make this my career,” he said.

He still has some years yet to go, but Hineline is already impressed by what he’s seen of this year’s casts.

“I hope many people come out to see it,” he said. “They’re in for a terrific show.”

“Hansel and Gretel” will be performed at 1 and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Whitaker Center on Market Street in Harrisburg. For more information and for tickets, call 717-214-2787 or visit whitakercenter.org.

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