Holiday shopping is fun (and a good way to boost your mood), but when you're in the middle of a Nutcracker run, it can be hard to get anything else done. If you're still scrambling to find something for everyone on your list, we have a few ballet-inspired ideas.
For the bookworms and dance history buffs in your life...
There are tons of great ballet books out there—stunning dance photography books, like NYC Dance Project's newly-released The Art of Movement, memoirs by the likes of Gelsey Kirkland and Michaela DePrince, and rich histories of ballet and its artists. Here are some of our favorites.
For your most stylish studio friend...
Who understands what dancers want in clothing better than dancers themselves? These days, many pros are making and designing their own lines of leotards, skirts, warmups and more. Just this month, for instance, Misty Copeland launched her new dancewear line, Égal Dance. Check out our 2016 holiday gift guide for more dancer-made products—like colorful legwarmers made by Boston Ballet's Ashley Ellis, or fun printed leotards by former Houston Ballet dancer Jordan Reed.
A piece from Misty Copeland's new collection, photo via @egaldance on Instagram
For the friend who's always too busy to hang out...
Carve out some time for the two of you to do something together. Bonus: Research has shown that gifting an experience instead of a tangible item can make the recipient feel more connected to you. Grab tickets to a dance performance in your area, or plan a post-rehearsal dinner at their favorite restaurant.
For the friend who dreams of saving the world...
Make a donation in your friend's name, to a cause they care about. A little goes a long way, and making even a small contribution will lift both of your spirits.
And for every bunhead out there...
Chances are, you're a couple weeks into your Nutcracker run, and the exhaustion is starting to set in. With so many performances, your joints and muscles have less time to recover between shows, and you have less time to wind down and relax. For those days that you aren't sure your body and mind can take one more performance, try these tips to fight fatigue and soreness:
Take a nap: A short power nap can give you a quick burst of energy before you get ready to take the stage. Try finding a quiet place to rest between your matinee and evening performances.
Apparently, there’s a black market for Nutcracker costumes.
Back in November, Festival Ballet Providence artistic director Mihailo Djuric found himself in a serious bind when a trip to the company’s storage facility in Pawtucket, RI, revealed that 57 costumes for its upcoming Nutcracker production had been stolen. Important items such as a Swarovski crystal-embellished Sugar Plum Fairy tutu and the Nutcracker’s mask had been quietly removed from their crates. “Many of the stolen costumes were for our children’s cast members, which is especially disheartening,” Djuric said in a statement. The company had mere weeks to figure out how to replace dozens of tunics and tutus before opening night on December 16.
Not wasting a moment’s time, Djuric called ballet companies nationwide to find similar costumes he could rent for the production. Since then, over a dozen have come to the rescue, including Kansas City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, BalletMet, Rochester City Ballet, Connecticut Ballet and Mobile Ballet in Alabama. This week, 10 volunteer costumers from around New England have been sewing nonstop, reconstructing new pieces from scratch (such as the Toy Soldier jackets) and altering costumes that were not stolen to match rented items. “This entire process has required a tremendous amount of creativity and imagination to make sure we get this show on stage and looking sharp,” says Djuric. Their hard work paid off—by Thursday morning’s school performance for 1,000 area children, all costumes and props were reconstructed or replaced.
A motive for the theft is still unclear, and Pawtucket police continue to investigate. While Festival Ballet is still working on an exact figure, the financial loss is estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and the company will be forced to make new costumes next year. But in the meantime, Providence can still enjoy its annual Nutcracker magic, thanks to the dance community’s generosity.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that any ballet company worth its sugar plums must have a production of Nutcracker as part of its holiday season repertoire. And for nearly three decades, through its final performance at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre in December 2015, the Joffrey Ballet was well served by its uniquely Victorian-American setting of the classic. It was choreographed by founding artistic director Robert Joffrey shortly before his death, and featured major contributions from Gerald Arpino.
Now the Joffrey is about to get a brand-new $4 million version of the ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. He has assembled a stellar team of collaborators, including set and costume designer Julian Crouch, author and illustrator Brian Selznick, puppeteer Basil Twist, lighting designer Natasha Katz and projection designer Benjamin Pearcy. And while the production will retain the Tchaikovsky score, and many of the ballet’s classic elements, the story will be reimagined with a distinctly Chicago backdrop.
Set during the construction of the city’s fabled 1893 World’s Fair, the family at the ballet’s center will not be the usual group of upper-class sophisticates. Rather, the story will revolve around the female sculptor who worked on the Exposition’s iconic statue of Columbia, and her daughter, whose friends are the children of laborers working on the fair. The character of Drosselmeyer, the magician, will be based on the great urban planner Daniel Burnham, and the ethnic variations will be inspired by the array of international pavilions that were a notable element, including those from Egypt, Germany and Venice.
“This version will be full of surprises and more cohesive storytelling,” says Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater. “Thousands of Chicago kids come to see our production each year, and I think they don’t quite relate to the story as it has been told. This will be a Nutcrackerabout making magic out of everyday things.” —Hedy Weiss
Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, with their delightfully cheesy plots and predictable fairy tale endings, are pretty much the ultimate guilty pleasure. But this year there's an extra reason to cozy up in front of the TV in your pajamas, popcorn in hand. The latest Hallmark original movie, A Nutcracker Christmas, is all about ballet, complete with a cast of talented dancers.
The story centers on Lily, a former ballerina who thought she'd left the dance world behind long ago. She comes face-to-face with ballet again when her niece, Sadie, is cast in The Nutcracker. And Sadie's director just happens to be Lily's ex-boyfriend from her dance days, Mark.
The best part of all this? Former American Ballet Theatre dancer Sascha Radetsky, who's already proven he has acting chops in Center Stage and Starz's "Flesh and Bone," plays Mark. Sadie is played by young up-and-comer Sophia Lucia. In other words, we are hopefully in for some pretty great Nutcracker-themed dance sequences. From the looks of the preview, we just might be in luck.
The movie premieres tomorrow, December 10, at 8:00 pm EST. But if you miss it the first time, no worries—there are plenty of other showings throughout the month. Until then, check out the preview below, and a behind-the-scenes clip with the cast here.
Ana Sophia Scheller is having one busy December: In between performances of New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, she'll jet set to Honolulu to dance Dew Drop and the Snow pas de deux in Ballet Hawaii's brand-new production. Choreographed by Septime Webre, this Nutcracker incorporates the history and culture of Hawaii, and features guest artists from NYCB and other companies. Pointe spoke with Scheller about her double dose of the holiday ballet.
What gives this Nutcracker its Hawaiian twist?
Septime's Nutcracker is set in Honolulu in 1858, during the area's first Christmas Eve party with the first Christmas tree. I think he hopes the audience will recognize a bit of themselves in the production. And you know the Snow Scene? It's set on a volcano in the big island of Hawaii.
Since you're dancing Dew Drop with two companies, is it tricky keeping the choreography straight?
I've already done the Balanchine version at New York City Ballet for, like, 12 years, so that's not a problem. But when I rehearse for Septime's production, I make sure I watch a video every time I go into rehearsal to remember the steps and choreography. Thankfully, I know the music already.
Who will be your partner for the Snow pas in Hawaii?
I'm performing with Nicolai Gorodiskii. He is from Ukraine, but he grew up in Argentina so we both speak the same language. And he is my boyfriend actually. It's our first Nutcracker together.
What's it been like working with Septime Webre?
He has good energy, and his choreography is very different from other stuff that I've done. If the music is slow, there are a million steps. I always keep moving.
Will you have any time to relax in Hawaii before you return?
[laughs] Not so much actually. The last performance is a matinee show, so the dancers from NYCB are flying back that same day. We perform and then we get on a place to New York.
You've been doing Nutcrackers for many years. How do you make it through such a long run?
The corps de ballet dancers have it the hardest. When I was in the corps at NYCB, we did more than 40 Nutcrackers. My first year I did probably 43 shows of Flowers and 2 of Dew Drop. When I did Dew Drop, I was like, 'Oh my god. I cannot believe I'm doing something different.' It was a special day. Once you're a soloist or principal, you don't dance every show, so it's exciting every time you go onstage.
Ballet Hawaii presents The Nutcracker Dec. 16-18 in Honolulu.
She's regal, yet kind. Approachable yet commanding. Delicate yet firm. Clara may be the heart of Nutcracker, but the Sugar Plum Fairy is its soul, with her sparkling, queenly dancing. In most versions of the ballet, we sit through nearly the whole thing just to see her. This year, whether you're dancing the role, cheering on a friend from backstage or taking notes on your company's guest artists, really familiarize yourself with everyone's favorite fairy.
1. Even though Lev Ivanov’s original choreography shows up in most Sugar Plum Fairy variations, there are countless versions of Nutcracker and just as many motivations for Sugar Plum's dancing. Make sure you understand the "why," along with the "how," of your character's choreography before setting foot onstage.
2. Guesting as a Sugar Plum Fairy can be artistically and financially rewarding—and riddled with problems. Brush up on your business savvy before signing any contracts.
3.We'll say it again: Even professionals get nervous before performing. New York City Ballet soloist Ashley Laracey reflected on the pressures of her Sugar Plum debut.
4. Not only is the music stunning, the costume is to-die-for. Here's a roundup of our favorite Sugar Plum tutus from Nutcracker productions around the world.
5. Royal Ballet principal Lauren Cuthbertson preps for the role, offering insight into the hard work that goes into every step, even after your umpteenth Nutcracker entrance.
Merde for the rest of your season!
This time of year, we're used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker's magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.
Peppermint: This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It's been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don't just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.