Our Best Tips: All About The Sugar Plum Fairy

New York City Ballet principals Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

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!

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Ma Cong in the studio with Tulsa Ballet. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Without him we wouldn't have The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But how much do you know about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the man behind classical ballet's most recognizable music? Did you know that the Russian composer hid his homosexuality for much of his life? He also struggled with depression; there's been speculation that his death in 1893 was in fact a suicide.

Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong dramatically recounts his life in a new full-length ballet titled Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music, premiering March 29-31. If you think a story ballet about the most renowned composer of story ballets set to, yes, a Tchaikovsky score, is a bit meta, you wouldn't be wrong. But considering the renewed importance of LGBTQ rights in society, it's a ballet perfectly timed to our era. In Russia, censorship still asserts that Tchaikovsky was not gay. The subject also calls to mind backlash surrounding an LGBTQ-themed work at Louisville Ballet just last month.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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