It's officially Nutcracker season, and you know what that means: Snow! Sugarplums! Hot chocolate! 40-foot tall Christmas trees!
This year, Boston Ballet took their performance previews to the next level. Their "Frozen Snowflakes" video captures the spirit of the snow scene from every angle imaginable by using awesome 3-D imagery. (ABT just used a similar method with a 360-degree camera for its backstage tour of Lincoln Center). We rounded up our favorite GIFs from the video, and be sure to check it out in full here!
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A few weeks ago, The Huffington Post did a piece on dancer fashion at New York City Ballet. Now they have an up-close-and-personal look at the backstage world of the company's Nutcracker.
While some of it is a little basic for those of us well-versed in the world of Nut, other bits are totally fascinating. Yes, you already know how to apply stage makeup. But have you seen Ashley Bouder apply her stage makeup? And yes, you know that costumes always look better from the stage than they do up close. But did you know that one of the reasons NYCB's costumes are dingy is because they're iconic designs Barbara Karinska created 60 years ago, and replacing them requires hunting down specific fabrics and trims that may no longer exist?
We've posted some of our favorite photos from the piece below. You can find the whole story here.
(All photos Raydene Salinas/HPMG)
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Nutcracker is always a bit of a slog. But in the days between Christmas and New Year's? Ayyyyyyyy. Sure, the end of the run is in sight, but that also means you've already put your poor feet through dozens of shows. And without all the holly-jolliness of holiday shopping and cookie baking and present wrapping to distract you from how much your body hurts, YOUR BODY HURTS SO DARN MUCH.
That's why we've rounded up our top five Nutcracker survival tips. Because you need them more this week than ever. Because with a little bit of self-care and a lotta bit of mental steeling, you can do it.
1. Eat smart. You need to fuel that aching instrument of yours properly! Try following former San Francisco Ballet and current Dutch National Ballet dancer Kristina Lind's Nutcracker diet, which involves lots of fish, fresh vegetables and healthy snacks.
2. But also, eat more cookies. Take a tip from former Boston Ballet and now American Ballet Theatre principal Jeffrey Cirio: Cookies are delicious, and boy, have you ever earned them.
3. Mix up your makeup. Have a little fun with it! Why not try out the SUPER big fake lashes for show #30? Or add a little shimmer to your skin for show #35? Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio (yup, she and Jeff are siblings—so cute) is all about glitter: "I love getting to sparkle for the audience, especially the children."
4. Play a Nut brain game. When Kathryn Morgan was doing 40+ Nutcrackers a year with New York City Ballet, she and her castmates would fight the doldrums by thinking of a "theme" for each performance. "We might say, 'Tonight, everyone dance as your favorite Disney princess!' Or, 'Let’s be kids playing in the snow on Christmas morning!' ” How fun is that?
5. Remember that each and every show, someone in the audience is seeing ballet for the first time. More words of wisdom from Lia C: "Nutcracker helped me fall in love with ballet, and now I’m living my dream. Who knows–I could be helping someone else’s dreams come true!"
Merde, all you special Snowflakes!
If there's one thing we can't get enough of, it's ballerina makeup tutorials. And this Christmas, Elle has gifted us with an amazing look at five NYCB dancers' Nutcracker looks. Unsurprisingly, these ladies are pros—after all, they dance in around 50 performances, which means lots of time to perfect their looks! From Sugarplum Fairy to Snow, watch these dancers transform before your eyes.
Lauren Lovette's lovely Sugarplum Fairy look (photo by Kathryn Wirsing, via Elle)
We're reaching the time of year when the fatigue of Nutcracker, regionals and school haven't quite been replaced by late-season stamina and the mercy of winter vacation.
But guess what? You're almost there, and we've got your back. Here are a ton of tried-and-true ways to stay motivated and healthy through the tough winter season.
Don't go to bed hungry. Nothing's worse than starting a day of school/rehearse/homework/perform/homework/repeat with a calorie deficit. And when you're working in close quarters with a ton of other dancers, #hanger should be avoided at all costs.
(San Francisco Ballet, photo by Erik Tomasson)
Be a better understudy. Yes, you're dancing 13 performances of "Waltz of the Flowers," and yes, you're tired. But that doesn't mean you can slack off in rehearsals—especially if you're "only" an understudy. Show your professionalism by getting the sleep, fuel and healthcare you need to be your best, even when the spotlight is on someone else.
Address small aches and pains before they become full-blown injuries. Blisters and swelling come with the territory for dancers, but that doesn't mean you can ignore them. Nothing will sideline you quicker than an infected blister or Achilles' tendonitis.
(New York City Ballet, photo by Paul Kolnik)
If you're doing your hair on autopilot at this point, try switching things up with a new 'do. Or, use countless shows and rehearsals as a way to (subtly!) test out new makeup looks, like classy contouring, super-bold eyelashes or a shimmery glow.
Pre- and Post-Show
Reinvest in your warmup. There's having an active pre-show ritual, and then there's slamming down into the splits while scrolling through Instagram. Take 10 minutes before rehearsal for this quick total-body workout to center yourself.
Cooling down is as important as warming up. After class, rehearsal or performance, take a few minutes to stretch. Your body will thank you in the morning by letting you walk (maybe). When you have a little more down time, try these relaxing yoga postures.
Ah, Nutcracker: Everyone's favorite holiday tradition, the reason many of us fell in love with dance in the first place and probably the most draining, exhausting, injury-inducing thing we do all year.
Pacific Northwest Ballet's Elizabeth Murphy and Jerome Tisserand (photo by Angela Sterling)
But dancers know Nutcracker is more than a fluffy story that doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense. It's a chance to inspire the love of dance in our audiences, and we wouldn't give that up for anything. Here are six reasons why we think Nutcracker is just the best:
1. You have the opportunity to perform new roles. Lots of dancers get their first soloist or principal parts in Nutcracker. It's a vote of confidence from your artistic staff, and a chance to reach new levels of artistry.
2. It can have so many different versions. The Joffrey Ballet has Christopher Wheeldon's Chicago-specific Nutcracker, which celebrates Marie as a working-class girl during the buildup to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Mark Morris Dance Group presents its zany The Hard Nut each year, with disco vibes. Brooklyn Ballet's Nutcracker time-travels from the Dutch colonies in early Brooklyn to the present day, and features a fusion of dance styles. The list goes on, and there's something special about telling a classic story in a way that makes sense for your community.
3. There's nothing like the camaraderie of teamwork. Are you on your 12th performance of "Waltz of the Flowers" and feeling totally exhausted? You know you can count on your friends to keep things energized, just like they count on you to always have extra bobby pins.
4. Each night, you're convincing little kids (and adults!) to take dance classes. That's priceless.
5. It's an opportunity to show your professionalism. There are inevitable cast changes during a long Nutcracker run. Being ready to jump into another role shows your directors that you're a reliable, mature dancer. They won't soon forget that they can count on you to come through during performances.
6. Your family and non-dance friends get a chance to see you shine. Of course, none of us dance for popularity's sake, but it's really rewarding to share your passion with the people who love and support you. The magic of Nutcracker, plus your beautiful dancing, is sure to coax a smile out of even the most ballet-phobic friend.
Merde for your season!
Are you just not feeling the holiday spirit this year? Is the Nutcracker inundation—you know, between actual Nut performances and the ceaseless stream of Tchaikovsky playing in every mall in the world—making you feeling a little, well, Grinchy? (THOSE DARN WHOS AND THEIR NOISE, NOISE, NOISE, NOISE.)
Let English National Ballet help you with that. More specifically, let ENB's pointe shoe Christmas tree help you with that.
Yes. Those lovely Londoners created a pointe shoe Christmas tree.
To clarify: It's not a tree decorated with pointe shoes. It's a tree made of pointe shoes.
500 pointe shoes, to be exact.
And it is glorious.
AHHH SO PRETTY. (screenshot via YouTube)
The tree now graces the foyer of the London Coliseum, where ENB just kicked off its Nutcracker run. And as if the finished product wasn't enough to get you belting out carols and eating sugar cookies, there's also a delightful time-lapse behind-the-scenes video showing how this holiday miracle—the brainchild of Arnaud Stephenson and ENB dancer Amber Hunt (otherwise known as Photography by ASH)—was constructed.
What's that sound? Is that the sound of your small heart growing THREE sizes? Yes. Mine too.
It's October! And you know what that means: While the normals are busy planning their Halloween costumes, you're busy rehearsing The Nutcracker. (Well, and planning your Halloween costumes, too. Those Fraternal Twins outfits aren't gonna make themselves.)
One of the best things about Nutcracker is that it gives lots of dancers their first shots at meaty principal roles. Long runs + a bazillion different parts to fill = opportunities left and right—every one of them a chance for a budding ballerina to discover her love of performing. I still remember standing in the wings, literally shaking in my pointe shoes, before dancing my first Snow Queen at 15. But I'll never forget how exhilarating it was once I actually got out there onstage—once I BECAME the Snow Queen. I wasn't all that good, but man, was I ever hooked.
And some extraordinary young students are, by the time they do their first Nutcracker leads, already gifted artists. This morning, former New York City Ballet soloist (and current Dance Spirit advice columnist!) Kathryn Morgan posted a #FBF video of her own teenaged Snow Queen performance with Mobile Ballet. She's clearly destined for greatness: Her technique is polished, her port de bras beautifully expansive. What really stands out, though, is how she performs with every inch of her body. She's a stage creature—completely at home and completely alive out there, even at just 15.
Already a beauty! (screenshot via YouTube)
Enjoy! And if you have questions for Morgan—about performing, about technique, about how to look like a principal before you can legally drive—send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.