Everything Nutcracker
Samuel Zaldivar as Boston Ballet's lovable party scene bear. Courtesy Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

For dancers, The Nutcracker isn't all winter wonderlands and charming sweets. To bring this ballet to life, we have to spar with swords (often while wearing a clunky head), pirouette in animal suits, and perform day after day with a host of other potentially hazardous costumes and props. Despite the dangers, Nutcracker's eccentric roles can be the most fun to perform. As five dancers describe, Nutcracker's whimsical, albeit taxing, accoutrements have their own kind of magic.

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Everything Nutcracker
Lauren Archer with children at the "Signing Santa" event at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, VA. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Richmond Ballet dancer Lauren Archer never thought she'd be able to blend ballet with her knowledge of American Sign Language. But at a recent "Signing Santa" event at the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, Archer—dressed as the Snow Queen from Nutcracker—got to make an extra-special connection with deaf and hard-of-hearing children. "Most of the parents and children were shocked to see that I was able to sign with them and that I wasn't just there for the pictures," Archer says. "I think the children loved meeting a real-life ballerina who was also able to communicate with them in their own language."

Archer began learning ASL 12 years ago, when her family adopted her younger brother, who is deaf. "He was almost 5 years old with absolutely no language or way to communicate," she says. "We continued to learn the language and teach him more and more each day—and now he's the one teaching us!"

Richmond Ballet's Lauren Archer Used American Sign Language to Spread "Nutcracker" Cheer youtu.be

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Everything Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet in Nutcracker. Photo by C. McCullers, Courtesy AB.

Battling sore muscles during a lengthy Nutcracker run? Add these three items to your grocery list for easier recovery between shows.

Eggs

Danielle MacInnes via Unsplash

These protein superstars contain all the essential amino acids, making them helpful for building and repairing muscle.

Everything Nutcracker
San Francisco Ballet principal Joseph Walsh at age 3 as the tiny green elf in his local Nutcracker. Courtesy Walsh.

Oh, Nutcracker... It's the ballet experience that unites us all, from young student to seasoned pro. Whether you made your entrance in a mouse costume or under Mother Ginger's skirt, do you remember the choreography and costume of your very first role?

Today, six professionals share their favorite childhood Nutcracker photos and memories.

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Everything Nutcracker
Isabelle Lapierre in a still from Finding Clara. Courtesy Justice Studios.

Last winter, we told you all about "Finding Clara," a YouTube series produced by tween clothing brand Justice. It followed four BalletMet Academy students cast in BalletMet's The Nutcracker. This year, it gets even better: The heart-melting show has been turned into a full-length documentary. Finding Clara was released today for rental and purchase on Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

Finding Clara Trailer youtu.be

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Everything Nutcracker
Courtesy Justice Studios

Finding Clara is a full-length documentary produced by Justice Studios that follows four young dancers from the BalletMet Academy as they prepare for The Nutcracker's leading role. Read all about it here. We're giving away five copies of the DVD including some extra gifts from tween clothing retailer Justice. Enter now to win!

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Everything Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet dancers in rehearsal with Yuri Possokhov. Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

When Gennadi Nedvigin took over as artistic director of Atlanta Ballet in 2016, one of his first goals was to produce a new Nutcracker; it's been over 20 years since the company's last revamp by former director John McFall. Nedvigin immediately turned to choreographer Yuri Possokhov. "You need to be a really mature choreographer to visualize the whole story," says Nedvigin. Now, two years later, Atlanta Ballet's new Nutcracker will come to life December 8–24.

Yuri Possokhov's "The Nutcracker" www.youtube.com

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Everything Nutcracker
New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin. Photo by Nick Nakahara, Courtesy Pazcoguin.

As conversations in the ballet world about race and representation have opened up in the past few years, its most beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, has come under scrutiny as well. Last year New York City Ballet made changes to its second act Chinese Tea variation, removing elements of racial caricature from both the costume and makeup and the choreography.

NYCB soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who is part Filipino, was one of the voices fighting for that change. This year, as companies and schools worldwide are gearing up for Nutcracker season, Pazcoguin, along with former dancer and arts administrator Phil Chan, is back with a new campaign. Final Bow For Yellowface is an online platform dedicated to educating companies and schools on how to veer away from offensive Asian stereotypes (yellowface) and providing resources on how to make those changes. The site also lets readers join dance world luminaries including Virginia Johnson, Julie Kent, Adam Sklute, Troy Schumacher and Christopher Wheeldon in signing a pledge to end the practice of yellowface onstage. We touched base with Pazcoguin to hear about how this initiative came to be, and what she and Chan have in the works for the future.

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Everything Nutcracker
Moscow Ballet's "Russian Variation." Courtesy Moscow Ballet.

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker is not your average Nut. In 1994, the production debuted in six cities across the U.S. This winter, three simultaneously traveling companies of Russian dancers will bring the ballet to 137 cities, incorporating up to 120 local children in each location. For Mary Talmi, co-founder and producer of Talmi Entertainment, which produces the show, this is no small feat. "The role of arts education in this country is needed more than ever, and the more expansive our tour is, the more I realize that the benefits to the children are way beyond dance," she says.

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Giveaways
Photo Courtesy Sacramento Ballet.

Enter now to win a pair of tickets to see Sacramento Ballet's brand new Nutcracker on December 22 at 7 pm at the Community Center Theater in Sacramento, CA.

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Giveaways
Photo by Louis Tucker, Courtesy Memphis Ballet.

Enter now to win a pair of tickets to see Ballet Memphis' Nutcracker on December 7 at 7:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN.

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Everything Nutcracker
Archie crossing the stage with his castmates. Photo Courtesy Festival Ballet Providence.

Every ballet star's stage career must eventually come to an end. This season, Festival Ballet Providence celebrates the retirement of one of its Nutcracker's best loved performers: Archie the dog. This Yorkshire Terrier, owned by FBP artistic director Misha Djuric, has taken the stage in more than 125 performances of FBP's Nutcracker over the past 19 years. Though he'll be missed, it makes sense... after all, in human years, he is nearing his 93rd birthday.

Archie appears in the ballet's first scene, scampering across the stage with the partygoers. "Archie announced that he's settling down to a life of luxury and long naps on pillow," says Djuric in a statement. "He actually never expected to have become so famous and he's very grateful for the fans who have supported him all these years."

Archie prepares for his 100th Nutcracker performance www.youtube.com

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Trending
Pacific Northwest Ballet in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Thanksgiving is just days away, and while to some that means family and football, to bunheads it means one thing only: Nutcracker is coming. Looking for a Nut near you? We know that your next few weeks will be too busy with rehearsals to keep your eye on ballet news, so we've decided to help you out by rounding up 71 of our nation's Nutcrackers, state by state.

We're not perfect! If we missed a major Nutcracker production, we want to know. Email clansky@dancemedia.com for consideration.

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Trending
New York City Ballet soloist Claire Kretzschmar as the Sugarplum Fairy in Balanchine's "The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

What bunhead hasn't dreamed of dancing Clara in Nutcracker? But with so many young dancers aspiring to the role, casting disappointments are inevitable each year. Today, three professionals share their childhood Clara casting disappointments and what helped them move on and learn from the experience. We hope their stories will encourage you this Nutcracker season!

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Everything Nutcracker
From left: Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Michael Curley, Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo.

Yesterday Cincinnati Ballet announced an exciting addition to this year's Nutcracker cast: a character based on Fiona, the world's most famous hippopotamus.

Fiona was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in January 2017. Six weeks premature, she weighed only 29 pounds at birth as opposed to the standard 55-120, and required round-the-clock care from dedicated zoo staff. Cincinnati Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit even got involved. The zoo chronicled her progress on Facebook, creating the heart-warming Fiona Show (see the first episode below). The baby hippo's story went viral, winning hearts in Cincinnati and around the world.

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Just for fun
Mackenzie Foy as Clara and Keira Knightly as Sugar Plum star in this new Nutcracker spin-off. Photo by Laurie Sparham, Courtesy Disney Enterprises, Inc.

If there's one thing that dancers know well, it's The Nutcracker. From the minutiae of the plot to the choreography to Tchaikovsky's timeless score, we've got it down.

Disney's new holiday film, The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, released in theaters November 2, is not a retelling of the ballet's story, and it's not a dance movie. Nevertheless, we think there's plenty in it for bunheads to love (like Misty Copeland). Don't believe us? First, watch this featurette featuring Copeland, and then read on for four reasons why you might want to take a break from your Nut rehearsals to head to the movies.

Disney's The Nutcracker and The Four Realms - "On Set with Misty Copeland" Featurette www.youtube.com

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Trending
Mackenzie Foy as Clara and Keira Knightly as Sugar Plum star in this new Nutcracker spin-off. Photo by Laurie Sparham, Courtesy Disney Enterprises, Inc.

If there's one thing that dancers know well, it's The Nutcracker. From the minutiae of the plot to the choreography to Tchaikovsky's timeless score, we've got it down.

Disney's new holiday film, The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, released in theaters November 2, is not a retelling of the ballet's story, and it's not a dance movie. Nevertheless, we think there's plenty in it for bunheads to love (like Misty Copeland). Don't believe us? First, watch this featurette featuring Copeland, and then read on for four reasons why you might want to take a break from your Nut rehearsals to head to the movies.

Disney's The Nutcracker and The Four Realms - "On Set with Misty Copeland" Featurette www.youtube.com

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Just for fun
Misty Copeland as the Ballerina Princess in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Photo Courtesy Disney.

It's August—the sun is shining, summer intensives are winding down, and Nutcracker seems very far away. But this new trailer for Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is already getting us in the holiday mood. While this modern take on classic holiday story, in theaters November 2, is not a dance film, it does include mega-stars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin as the Ballerina Princess and Nutcracker Prince.

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News
Misty Copeland as the Ballerina Princess in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Photo Courtesy Disney.

It's August—the sun is shining, summer intensives are winding down, and Nutcracker seems very far away. But this new trailer for Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is already getting us in the holiday mood. While this modern take on the classic holiday story, in theaters November 2, is not a dance film, it does include mega-stars Misty Copeland and Sergei Polunin as the Ballerina Princess and Nutcracker Prince.

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Ballet Stars
From left: Peter Walker, Harrison Coll. Photos by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

A company's corps de ballet is rarely the pool from which title roles are plucked. Yet New York City Ballet seems to buck convention, especially for its full-length production of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet. When it debuted back in 2007, the ballet featured a cast of untested corps members and apprentices as the eponymous stars. (A School of American Ballet student was originally tapped to dance Juliet, but she wasn't able to perform due to injury.) At the time Martins, who recently retired as NYCB's ballet master in chief, attributed his casting choices to the characters' ages in Shakespeare's play; Juliet and Romeo are 14 and 19, respectively. Also, he remarked, "Never underestimate youth."

This week, two young Romeos are stepping up from the company's corps. Harrison Coll made his debut on February 13, opening night, alongside principal Sterling Hyltin (the original Juliet in the production's opening night performance back in 2007). Peter Walker follows on Friday, February 16.

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Ballet Stars
Webb and Jared Matthews in "Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Houston Ballet principal Sara Webb, now celebrating her 20th season, holds the distinct position of being the only ballerina currently in the company who has worked extensively under two Houston Ballet artistic directors: Ben Stevenson (who left in 2003 and now directs Texas Ballet Theatre) and Stanton Welch. Webb was nurtured under Stevenson, who first saw her potential and promoted her to soloist, and she was the very first dancer that Welch promoted to principal. Having danced most major roles since joining the company in 1997, she carries a considerable amount of Houston Ballet history in her body.

With her exquisite technique, gorgeous lines, and her ability to bounce back from having a baby quicker than most celebrities, Webb has always been an audience favorite. She spoke with Nancy Wozny via email about her lengthy career.




Congratulations on 20 years at Houston Ballet. To what do you credit your artistic longevity?

I credit my artistic longevity to my life experiences. From the difficult ones (my husband being deployed to Iraq) to the joyful ones (having my children), those experiences help me bring a wider range of emotions to the stage. Every time I've revisited a role, I've been in a different place in my life, which has allowed me to approach the role in a different way.

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Everything Nutcracker

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Nutcracker are simply iconic—two of the world's most celebrated dancers in the world's best-loved ballet. Starring as Clara and the Prince in American Ballet Theater's 1977 made-for-television film, these two superb talents bring both technical and dramatic brilliance to the ballet's culminating scene.

In this version, which Baryshnikov himself choreographed, Clara and the Prince dance the grand pas de deux. He also mixes up the order so that the variations and coda precede the adagio. The clip begins with the tail end of Kirkland's variation, followed by a flawlessly danced coda. Baryshnikov, looking debonair in all white, flies in his jumps, rebounding off the floor like a spring, and Kirkland's impressive diagonal at 0:43 boasts triple fouetté turns.

The mood changes when Drosselmeyer, played by Alexander Minz, arrives in the first chords of the adagio to usher Clara away from her dreamland. In a pas de trois, Clara is torn between her beloved godfather and her prince, reluctant to choose between childhood and the promise of her dreams. In her gauzy nightgown, the delicate Kirkland is ethereal and waif-like as she is promenaded and passed in the air between her partners. She and Baryshnikov make a tender couple and in the end, as she chaînes into his arms, it is clear that she longs to stay with her prince. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Everything Nutcracker
Texas Ballet Theatre's Jiyan Dai and Samantha Pille (center) with members of Queensland Ballet. Photo courtesy TBT.

One way to change up your Nutcracker run is to perform it halfway around the world. This holiday season, two Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince couples from Texas Ballet Theater and Australia's Queensland Ballet did just that in a fun cross-company exchange. Last week, TBT artists Samantha Pille and Jiyan Dai traveled to Brisbane to debut in the Australian company's Nutcracker performances. Now, Queensland Ballet dancers Yanela Piñera and Camilo Ramos are in Fort Worth for the follow-up shows. They had their first performance last night and are scheduled to dance again December 22.


From left: Queensland Ballet's Yanela Piñera and Camilo Ramos with TBT's Jiyan Dai and Samantha Pille. Photo courtesy TBT.

TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., and Li Cunxin, artistic director for Queensland Ballet, dreamed up the holiday swap hoping to give their dancers a fresh Nutcracker experience. The exchange is particularly meaningful because of the directors' shared history. Cunxin (whose autobiography Mao's Last Dancer was made into a major motion picture in 2009), danced as a principal under Stevenson during his tenure as artistic director of Houston Ballet. After taking the helm of Queensland Ballet, Cunxin brought Stevenson's production of Nutcracker to Australia.

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Everything Nutcracker
Lauren Grace Onderko. Photo Courtesy Justice.

Can't get enough Nutcracker? Don't fear. Tween clothing brand Justice has just released a web series called "Finding Clara," which follows four young dancers cast as Clara in BalletMet's production of The Nutcracker. The first three episodes are available on YouTube, and the final installment will be released on Friday, December 22. Each video is about 20 minutes long.

Justice is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, the home of BalletMet, leading to an easy collaboration. The company gave Justice exclusive and uninhibited access to everything behind the scenes, from auditions to rehearsals to performance. Part of Justice's mission is to empower young girls and spread positive messages, and they have a huge video collection. This isn't their first foray into balletearlier this fall they created a series of ballet video tutorials. A representative from Justice told us that the goal of the new series is to give "a real-life snapshot of the heart and soul these girls put into their Nutcracker performancethe rehearsals, overcoming challenges, celebrating wins and the bonds of friendships made."

The four ClarasAlaina Kelly, Molly Rainford-Dreibelbis, Lauren Grace Onderko and Isabelle Lapierrerange in age from 10-13, and their positive, excited energy is clear throughout the series. The issues that they deal with such as balancing schoolwork and rehearsal, managing jealousy and competition with their peers, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle despite busy schedules will feel familiar to dancers of all ages. So over your holiday break, cozy up with some hot chocolate and dive into the world of "Finding Clara."

Check out the trailer below, followed by the first three episodes:

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Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence in "Nutcracker." Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Our company's Nutcracker was choreographed by Sir Peter Wright, and it's very traditional. We usually only have two weeks to prepare after the end of the autumn season, so my partner and I start going over the grand pas de deux on our own time before rehearsals start. I like to do my own research through social media or by watching how other company dancers interpret the role, drawing from what I like best and trying to apply that to myself. I also video my rehearsals and later critique them, to try to get my performance up to another level.

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News
Texas Ballet Theater's Brett Young as Edward Scissorhands in "The Nutty Nutcracker." Photo by Steven Visneau, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater.

On December 15, Texas Ballet Theater will set aside its familiar Nutcracker costumes, variations and sets for their one-night-only performance of The Nutty Nutcracker. A satirical take on the classic story, The Nutty Nutcracker combines the most riotous in current pop culture and politics with Tchaikovsky's well-worn refrains.

TBT dancers portray Elsa and Olaf in the snow scene of the Nutty Nut in 2015. Photo by Ellen Appel, Courtesy TBT.

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Ballet Careers
Artists of Wonderbound in "Snow." Photo by Amanda Tipton, Courtesy Wonderbound.

As a student in a pre-professional ballet school, one of the best parts of performing in company productions was getting to be in the midst of the action with the company dancers. In Nutcracker, for example—between my all-important moments of dancing glory (the two minute children's dance)—I'd eavesdrop on the party parents' conversations and (sometimes PG-13) jokes.

Even with the hazards of sweat flung from a pirouetting dancer's forehead, I often feel that audience members are missing out—watching a ballet from the front is rarely so intimate.

It seems I'm not alone in this thought. Two regional companies are looking to shake up the performance format with their immersive winter productions. With live music, cocktails, puppetry and up-close and personal party access, American Contemporary Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite and Wonderbound's Snow are sure to pique new interest.


American Contemporary Ballet's Sarah Bukowski as Marzipan. Photo by Art Lessman, Courtesy ACB.

American Contemporary Ballet's The Nutcracker Suite

American Contemporary Ballet, now in its seventh season, is premiering its unique Nutcracker production this year. Artistic director Lincoln Jones was initially reluctant to do a party scene. "For audiences today, especially audiences in Los Angeles where they don't really grow up with ballet," he says, party scene's "over-large acting" can be difficult to connect with.

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