Nutcracker Survival Tips: 6 Pros on Making It Through the Holiday Marathon

Tulsa Ballet's Jennifer Grace. Photo Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Six pros reveal their most creative tricks for making it through everyone's favorite holiday marathon.


Alana Griffith: Artist, Milwaukee Ballet

Griffith in rehearsal for Milwaukee Ballet's "Waltz of the Flowers." Photo by Timothy O'Donnell, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

Favorite role: Clara

"Clara was my first soloist role and the first role I did where my character danced through the entire ballet. I liked playing with different ways of making her sweet and lovable or bratty and funny. Switching from Clara to the corps to divertissements makes the rehearsal process exciting and challenging."


Number of Nutcrackers per season: 17–18

Pre-Warm-Up: “In the morning I take a hot bath for 5–7 minutes as a way to pre-warm my muscles before class."

Multitasking Tape: “If I have a quick change into pointe shoes, I rip a piece of soft, white tape off my toes and use it to hold my ribbons."

Conjuring Calm: “I take a homeopathic supplement called Quietude, which helps me wind down after a show."


Miranda Silveira: Corps de ballet, San Francisco Ballet

Silveira in rehearsal with SFB. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Favorite role: Spanish

“It's a very energetic and dynamic part, and there's a lot of character dancing."

Number of Nutcrackers per season: approximately 33

Keep Toasty: “When I'm doing Maid or Party Parent in the Party Scene, I wear legwarmers under the long dress so I'm ready for Snow."

Warm Toes: “I stick my pointe shoes under the heater at the theater to warm them up."

Listen Closely: “Take advantage of the differences between each conductor by really listening to the changes in the music."


Eva Burton: Company artist, Oregon Ballet Theatre

Burton (center) in OBT's "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by James McGrew, Courtesy OBT.

Favorite role: Sugar Plum Fairy

“I love that in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy does her variation at the beginning of Act II surrounded by the angels. Sharing the stage with young students reminds me that every audience is full of children who are seeing ballet for the first time."

Number of Nutcrackers per season: 15–19

Time Your Hydration: “I drink water well before the show so I can stay focused but not have to go to the bathroom once I'm in costume."

Pointe Shoe Prep: “I sew as many pointe shoes as possible before we even get to the theater."

Check Off Christmas Shopping: “I do all of my Christmas shopping before Nutcracker!"


Jennifer Grace: Demi-soloist, Tulsa Ballet

Grace in Tulsa Ballet's Snow scene. Photo Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Favorite role: Maid of Honor, in “Waltz of the Flowers"

“In Marcello Angelini's Nutcracker, the Maid of Honor is partnered by four different cavaliers, and it flows together beautifully. I wouldn't say it's easy to dance, but it's very enjoyable."

Number of Nutcrackers per season: 8

Soup-er Food: “Soup is my go-to meal. It keeps you hydrated and makes you feel full, but you can still move."

Fresh-Faced: “I take my makeup off immediately after the show, wash my face as soon as I get home, and I don't put any makeup on until I have to, the next night, so my skin has a chance to breathe."

Salt Solutions: “Epsom salt baths help my muscles to recover from that feeling of lactic acid crunchiness."


Tiffany Mosher: Second soloist, National Ballet of Canada

Mosher performs Spanish Chocolate at NBoC. Photo by Cylia von Tiedemann, Courtesy NBoC.

Favorite role: Bee, in “Waltz of the Flowers"

“Although it's an extremely difficult and tiring role with a lot of jumping and quick movements, the fast-paced choreography makes it a joy."

Number of Nutcrackers per season: 24

Get Rest: “We bring a blow-up mattress into the change room, to lie down between shows."

Be a Team Player: “I always volunteer to do a new spot if someone gets sick or injured. Everyone will go to the wings to watch, and if you make eye contact onstage it's fun!"

Balance Is Key: “Doing the same roles all the time works the same muscles. For example, the Snowflake choreography has a lot of quick footwork and relevés, so it's taxing on our calves and ankles. To balance that I do lunges and squats with weights to engage my hamstrings, quads and glutes."


Joshua Grant: Soloist, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Grant as Mother Ginger in PNB's "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Favorite roles: Cavalier and Mother Ginger

“The Sugar Plum Fairy's Cavalier is the most rewarding role because of the beautiful music, and Mother Ginger is an all-out hoot to perform."

Number of Nutcrackers per season: approximately 35

Natural Skin Care: “Coconut oil is an all-natural way to moisturize your skin. It doesn't have to be refrigerated, so you can keep it in your makeup case."

Advance Check-In: “I always check in with my partner before a pas de deux. Maybe my shoulder hurts that day or her shoes are more dead than usual."

Hit Refresh: “It helps to step out of the theater, even if it's just for lunch or coffee, especially on double show days." P

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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