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.