Given the thousands of incarnations The Nutcracker has undergone—from tiny-tot productions in small-town studios to grand modern classics—the ballet's Grand Pas de Deux from Act II has remained remarkably intact. With slight variations, most professional dancers have seen its familiar choreography at some point or another. Tchaikovsky's radiant score calls to mind elegant promenades, partnered penchées and slow, supported développés.
Peek inside Devon Teuscher's pointe shoes and you'll see a discreetly placed number. "I want to see how many shoes I go through in a year," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "Last year it was close to 200 pairs." Teuscher keeps a Sharpie handy for this season's count in a small pouch containing other shoe accessories like ribbons and elastics. It's one of a handful of carefully organized pouches stored in her red mesh bag. "I'm definitely not a pack rat," she says of her no-frills style. Teuscher's bag came from Ascot + Hart, a California boutique that her sister introduced her to. "I love that it's breathable and lightweight and it can pack quite a bit. It's also easy to wash."
As the investigation into claims of sexual harassment by New York City Ballet ballet master in chief Peter Martins remains under wraps, more dancers are speaking publicly on the matter. And while many allegations are decades old, dancers with recent and current ties to the company are becoming more vocal.
Yesterday, Kathryn Morgan—a former NYCB soloist with a hugely popular YouTube channel and an advice column in Dance Spirit—posted a candid video addressing questions she's received about the scandal. Although Morgan left the company in 2012, her post sheds light on the mixed emotions that current NYCB dancers may be feeling right now. "This is an issue that NEEDS to be discussed," she writes in the comments section. "And I appreciate that you all understand I am in no way defending him. I just wanted to give you my honest and true experience with dealing and working with Peter."
There are a ton of different kinds of toe pads out there, and even more opinions about them. It's all about finding the perfect balance between control and comfort. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop reviews five different types of pointe shoe toe pads.
On December 15, Texas Ballet Theater will set aside its familiar Nutcracker costumes, variations and sets for their one-night-only performance of The Nutty Nutcracker. A satirical take on the classic story, The Nutty Nutcracker combines the most riotous in current pop culture and politics with Tchaikovsky's well-worn refrains.
TBT dancers portray Elsa and Olaf in the snow scene of the Nutty Nut in 2015. Photo by Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT.
There's a surprising twist to Regina Willoughby's last season with Columbia City Ballet: It's also her 18-year-old daughter Melina's first season with the company. Regina, 40, will retire from the stage in March, just as her daughter starts her own career as a trainee. But for this one season, they're sharing the stage together.
Performing Side-By-Side In The Nutcracker Regina and Melina are not only dancing in the same Nutcracker this month, they're onstage at the same time: Regina is doing Snow Queen, while Melina is in the snow corps, and they're both in the Arabian divertissement. "It's very surreal to be dancing it together," says Regina. "I don't know that I ever thought Melina would take ballet this far."
Left: Regina and Melina with another company member post-snow scene in 2003. Right: The pair post-snow scene in 2017 (in the same theater)
E.T.A. Hoffmann, a German writer, penned the eerie and dark tale "Nutcracker and Mouse King" in 1816. About 30 years later, the French writer Alexandre Dumas took the Nutcracker story into his own hands, lightening things up and softening the character descriptions. Dumas even cheered up the name of the protagonist. "Marie Stahlbaum" (meaning "steel tree," representing the repressive family Marie found herself in, which led her imagination to run wild) became "Clara Silberhaus" (translated to "silver house," a magnificent home filled with shiny magic.)
Snowflakes of the original cast, "The Nutcracker" at the Mariinsky Theatre, 1892. Photo by Walter E. Owen, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.
From Page to Stage
In 1892 St. Petersburg, choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky pulled the story off the page and onto the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. But Petipa fell ill while choreographing The Nutcracker and handed his duties over to his assistant, Lev Ivanov. Critics at the 1892 premiere were not pleased. Balletomanes felt the work to be uneven, and lamented the lack of a main ballerina in the first act. Many thought that the story was too light compared to historically based stories.
Out of Russia
Despite its initial reception, the ballet survived, partially due to the success of Tchaikovsky's score. Performances were scarce, though, as the Russian Revolution scattered its original dancers. The Nutcracker's first major exposure outside of Russia took place in London in 1934. Former Mariinsky ballet master Nikolas Sergeyev was tasked with staging Petipa's story ballets on the Vic-Wells Ballet (today The Royal Ballet) from the original notation. The notes were incomplete and difficult to read, yet Sergeyev persisted, and The Nutcracker made it to the stage.
Dancers from ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in "The Nutcracker" pas de deux. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.