Just the musings of a small-town professional ballerina, business owner, wife, and beagle mama as she attempts to make it through this thing called life.

Dec 10, 2013

Nutcracker 2013 - A Learning Experience

This year's Nutcracker was nothing short of incredible. I've learned more about performing through those seven shows than I have every other show I've ever done combined. For five shows I danced George Balanchine's choreography for the Dew Drop in Waltz of the Flowers. I had done one show of Dew Drop in 2013 and I was a very green dancer. I knew how to perform and interact with a crowd, sure, but carrying yourself as the lead in a ballet and emitting the essence of a queen in front of two thousand people is something you simply cannot know how to do until you actually do it. I was promoted at an extremely young age. Most dancers (particularly at my company) don't perform leads until they have had many, many years of stage experience and usually don't start their debut in a principal role in the largest-scale ballet we do.

You can never know how hard it is to perform a role like that until you do it. I was on the stage in my Sugar Plum tutu during intermission, practicing a couple turns before the lights and curtain went up. Our principal ballerina, Janet Davis (who has performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy for seventeen years now), looked at me and said, "The funniest part of all of this to me is that you finally understand my pain." It is SO hard. Not just physically, because that's to be expected. But standing in the wings, knowing you're about to step out in front of all those people and all eyes will be on you, is unnerving to say the least.

But it's amazing. The sense of relief, pride, and awe you get as you step downstage and take your bow after the final dip in the pas de deux is truly overwhelming. You absorb the applause and "bravas" into your skin and take it offstage with you, carrying it wherever you go. Knowing that actually happened, knowing that for a moment you were something beautiful to all those people. That is something that will resonate in my memory forever.

The fact that I got to share in the glory and splendor of The Nutcracker with my little sister is absolutely one of the best parts. She's an incredible and breathtaking Clara with her long, graceful limbs and limitless extension. She understands performing. She can turn the charismatic twinkle in her eye on whenever she pleases and captivate every onlooker. I love that she continues to teach me a thing or two and I've always said that the day will come when she is bigger and better than I could ever hope to be. Keep in mind, I say this not in a jealous, bitter kind of way. I say it with admiration and paramount respect.

I thank my lucky stars to have my mother working so closely backstage at the shows. Yes, my sister and I have grown up and don't necessarily need her when we perform. We'd be fine on our own. But to share this with her and see the expression of pride on her face as she stands in the wings, watching us, means more than any bouquet of flowers or booming applause.

As for the other roles, Snowflakes and Dew Drop, the physical therapist that volunteers his time to come backstage and work on the dancers before/after/during shows told me a story that summed up the roles perfectly. He was watching an Alvin Ailey performance from the wings and when a dancer exited the stage, he complimented the man's dancing. The dancer looked at him and said: "That wasn't dancing, that was energy and movement." There comes a point in time, after hours of rehearsing, that the dance becomes pure energy that is your responsibility to give, and give, and give.

In the final performance I was Dew Drop and in the famous "Dew Drop turns" (pointe pas de bourre, fouette, back attitude turn and an a la seconde turn consecutively three times) I went for a double back attitude turn. I made around two full times and when I came off point, I don't know whether my shoe had too much rosin and got caught on the marley or it just wasn't a smooth landing and I lost my balance, but I made it around the last time with a couple of hops after the double and finished the segment by leaping off stage. In the wings everyone was exclaiming "AWE YOU ALMOST HAD IT!"  It wasn't terrible, the bobble was noticeable but didn't make anyone gasp in worry. But at the very least, I tried and almost had it. Better luck next year! When Janet and her dance partner/husband Glenn came off stage from their pas de deux, they approached me in the wings before the finale and what Glenn said made me realize I had probably done the right thing. "You have to go for it," he said. "What would you be doing now if you hadn't tried?" As disappointing as it was to come so close, I know I would have been beating myself to death hadn't given it my best attempt.

What were/are your Nutcracker experiences like? What have you learned as a dancer and performer from these shows? Leave a comment below to tell us!

I had my last final today. I'M ON VACATION FOR A MONTH! I could cry with happiness. It's one less thing on my plate. For the remainder of this week and next week I will be taking dance classes and teaching as usual, but get a full two weeks off afterwards. I'm all yours readers!

Thank you for reading, my lovelies. Don't forget to leave a comment below with feedback and your Nutcracker experience!

Happy holidays,

Rhiannon -

 (The lovely Hannah Anderson who came up from school at Fordham University to watch her brother in The Nutcracker and visit her MSB family) <3

(The lovely Veronica Druchniak AKA: my split for Dew Drop. A lovely performance by a lovely girl!)
 (Family Christmas card right here.) ... (No really.)

 (Yes, my boyfriend came to two shows. Yes, he is perfect.)


(Above: the amazing Janet Davis. My role model and the dancer I aspire to be someday.)
We did it, Adri.

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