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For ballet dancers, Christmastime means The Nutcracker—and endless weeks of rehearsals and performances. By the time the New Year arrives, we can stand to wait 10 more months for the next round to begin. But despite its relentless repetition, The Nutcracker remains near and dear to many dancers' hearts, with familiar moments sparking memories of childhood. 

 

BalletMet Nutty Nutcracker

 Lewis in The Nutcracker. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

What's better than the Nutcracker? The Nutcracker with puppies and kittens, naturally. This year, Sacramento Ballet has partnered with the Front Street Animal Shelter to feature adoptable pets in each of their 13 Nutcracker performances. The critters will have roles in the opening scene—a busy street—and in the party scene at Clara's house.

 

When winter hits (especially if you live in the north), the shorter days and chilly temperatures can start to get you down. But there are simple things you can do to cheer yourself up as you go through your day. Try these tips the next time you're longing for spring:

Nothing provides more comfort than catching your best friend’s eye during a performance, or realizing that someone familiar is dancing by your side. And when a ballet’s choreography caters to friendship, the most intimate dance arises from the stage.

 

Without the dedication of dozens of technical crew members at each and every performance, ballet companies would be performing on bare, empty stages under flourescent lighting. Creating props, scenery, lighting and costumes for a performance is a huge undertaking, but the tech crew's work isn't done once the lighting is designed and the costumes are sewn. All of those materials have to be carefully transported to the theater, and the process of loading-in—setting everything up in the space—can take hours.

 

It's no secret that negative thoughts—the kind that circle around and around in your mind— can make it harder to sleep. Maybe you're nervous about taking on a new role in an upcoming performance, or daunted by a busy rehearsal schedule. Previous research has noted the link between lack of sleep and the development of repetitive negative thoughts.

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but with the marathon of Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, the holiday season can also be one of the most stressful times for dancers. It's important to carve out some downtime for yourself, but for those days that are just too hectic, try these quirky research-backed tricks for some instant relief: 

Strathmeyer rehearsing Winter. (Photo by Amanda Tipton, Courtesy Wonderbound)