Christmas came early this year for Elizabeth Murphy. Last Friday, the Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the company premiere of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. But the excitement didn't stop there. Just before the curtain rose, she was promoted to principal. For Pointe‘s bi-weekly newsletter, we caught up with Murphy during rehearsals for the holiday classic.

Murphy in costume as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB.

What is it like to learn such an iconic role?

The whole first day of rehearsal I had butterflies. Growing up, I watched every single Nutcracker performance I could, and I loved seeing Julie Diana do the role at Pennsylvania Ballet. When I started to learn Sugar Plum, I even remembered how she did a certain arm, and I wanted to do that, too.

What do you hope to bring to the role?

I always think it's nice to see dancers be themselves. That was something I learned from Violette Verdy when she worked with us on Jewels. She would give us so many things to think about, but at the end of the day, she'd say, "Just be yourself." It was really freeing to hear that.

Do you have a favorite moment in this version?

For sentimental reasons, I love the part with the angels. There's something so sweet about the little girls onstage, and I was an angel when I was younger.

This production has all new costumes. What are they like?

Ian Falconer, who did "Olivia the Pig," designed them. They have this fantastical feel, very vivid colors and a lot of sparkles. I don't think I've ever seen a purple Sugar Plum costume, but it makes a lot of sense to me!

 

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