Atlanta Ballet's Alessa Rogers as Marya. Charlie McCullers, Courtesy AB.

Is Nutcracker Making You Nuts? Four Veterans Share Their Advice for Getting Through

This story originally appeared in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Pointe.

As Christmas approaches, many of you are in your Nutcracker home stretch—and counting down the days. Need an extra shot of inspiration? Here, four Nutcracker veterans share their advice for staying healthy and motivated.


Jessika Anspach: Corps de ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Anspach as the Peacock in PNB's production

Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Number of Nutcrackers: 35–45

Roles: 9, ranging from party scene parent to the Peacock in Act II

Go for it: During Nutcracker you have the pressure of performance but the benefit of repetition, which in a way acts as a safety net—you can take risks without worrying that it's your "one shot." It's allowed me to work on refining my technique while performing: tightening my soutenus, holding my turnout or pointing my toes even when I can't feel them.

Get your zzz's: Sleep is my best friend. It gives my body time to recoup and heal itself from the pounding it sometimes receives. I also address any aches or pains as soon as I feel them, be that through a visit to our physical therapist or taking an ice bath before I go to bed, so they don't become a bigger problem later on.

Leticia Oliveira: Principal, Texas Ballet Theater

Oliveira as the Sugarplum Fairy

Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT

Number of Nutcrackers: 17 (plus one Nutty Nutcracker)

Roles: Sugarplum Fairy, Snow Queen, Arabian

Stay hydrated: I drink a lot of water, and I also drink a lot of Emergen-C to replace electrolytes, and for energy before a show. And I love Smartwater and coconut water when I'm feeling run-down.

Be an inspiration: Some people don't like Nutcracker, but I actually look forward to it. I love meeting the kids after the show and seeing what parts they enjoyed the most. Last year, I heard a child say, "Wow!" during my Sugarplum variation. My whole show afterwards was great.

Alessa Rogers: Company dancer, Atlanta Ballet

Rogers dancing as Marya

Charlie McCullers, Courtesy AB

Number of Nutcrackers: 17

Roles: Marya, Snow Queen, Arabian, Meissen Doll, Snowflake, Rose

Go green: I'm big on green smoothies and vegetables, and during the run I might up my intake of turmeric and pineapple juice, which are both good for reducing inflammation. On my days off, I go to yoga classes to stretch tight muscles and give myself a mental break.

Make it fresh: It's important not to form the same habits, in terms of how I respond to a character. If I do, I run the risk of becoming rigid and unbelievable. Allowing myself to play with the nuances makes the ballet feel new every day.

Laura Bowman: Corps de ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet

Bowman (right) in the "Snow" scene

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB

Number of Nutcrackers: 27

Roles: Snowflake, Grandparent, Harelquin, Demi-Soloist in "Flowers," Hot Chocolate, Lead Marzipan Shepherdess

Keep moving: Warm up properly before each show. Sometimes you must warm up several times within a show—that's partly why Nutcracker is so tiring. If you're performing one section in Act I (such as "Snow") and one section in Act II (like "Waltz of the Flowers"), you may have over 30 minutes of downtime where your body gets a little tight and cold. That's when injuries tend to happen.

Push yourself: Each time I step out onstage, I try to perform better than the time before. Some days it's harder to motivate myself than others. What gets me through is knowing that every audience member—from the toddlers to the seasoned ballet veterans—deserve to be entertained and experience the magic of Nutcracker.

Latest Posts


Yan Revazov, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin

How Staatsballett Berlin Pulled Off "Giselle" in the Age of Coronavirus

It's 8:24 am on a Tuesday. Even though morning class isn't for another hour and a half, Daniil Simkin is already at Staatsballett Berlin's studios; tests for the coronavirus, a biweekly requirement to dance with his partner, Iana Salenko, need to be submitted before 8:30 am—an inconvenient time, if you ask him. "It's annoying, but I'm just really grateful to be performing again," he says. "You do what you have to do."

Staatsballett Berlin has been back onstage since August. Return has been slow and steady, with dancers first performing solos or pas de deux (composed of people who already live together) in galas. From October 28–30, the company presented an adapted version of Patrice Bart's Giselle, its first full-length production since March. (Due to a surge of coronavirus cases in Germany, November performances have been cancelled.) Pointe took a virtual behind-the-scenes tour to learn what goes into mounting a ballet during a pandemic, including safety precautions, adjustments to choreography, and what it feels like to be back onstage.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Karolina Kuras, Courtesy English National Ballet (2)

English National Ballet Preps Future Dance Leaders With Its New Mentorship Program

English National Ballet first soloist James Streeter has practically grown up with the company. Since completing his training at the English National Ballet School, he went on to join the main company in 2004, rising up the ranks to first soloist in 2018. He's danced his favorite roles, including Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet and Albrecht in Akram Khan's Giselle. He even met his wife while dancing with the company, ENB lead principal Erina Takahashi. What's left to do when you've accomplished so much as an artist? For Streeter, it meant learning more about the business side of the company. In November 2019, Streeter was named the first mentee of ENB's Dance Leaders of the Future mentorship program. The program offers ENB's dancers the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a greater understanding of the running of an arts organization.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Argenis Apolinario, Courtesy Black Iris Project

The Black Iris Project's Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Celebrates Strength, Beauty and Community

When the coronavirus pandemic forced choreographer Jeremy McQueen to cancel performances of his summer collaborative, The Black Iris Project, he took time to regroup—and then brainstormed on how he could continue to create and use his voice. Dedicated to sharing stories of the Black experience, he turned his attention toward an issue dear to his heart: breast cancer awareness.

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women have the highest mortality rate of breast cancer cases in the U.S. "There are a number of factors that go with that, but one of the things that concerns me, especially now that we are in a pandemic, is that a lot of people have lost their jobs or are without health care," says McQueen. He contacted friend and photographer Argenis Apolinario to arrange an outdoor shoot with 16 dancers. For the entire month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, The Black Iris Project's Concrete Roses campaign on Instagram has featured both photos and tributes that not only draw attention to early-prevention measures, but foster community and celebrate the beauty of the Black female body.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks