Your Holiday Must-See: New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker

The holiday season in NYC is truly magical. There's the 74-foot tree at Rockefeller Center, the ice skaters gliding across Wollman Rink in Central Park and the white lights strung across trees and buildings around the city.

 

And then there's one of the grandest holiday traditions of all: New York City Ballet's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker.

 

I saw the show on Friday night and, though I see it nearly every year, was just as blown away as ever.

 

Let's start the very beginning, shall we?

 

I was thrilled to see in the cast list that Taylor Stanley, our September cover boy, was playing the role of grandfather. And he was adorable! Taylor isn't just a gifted dancer, he's an exceptional performer. At just 19 years old, he's already finding ways to command the stage. Bravo, Taylor!

 

The end of Act I is, in my mind, the most magical part of the performance. I love watching the Snowflakes glide through the fake falling snow—and it always amazes me that no one slips! I was especially happy to see Lauren Lovette, our September cover girl, as a Snowflake. She definitely stood out to me during this piece. She has wonderful legs and a super-bendy back. I can't wait to watch her grow and mature with the company.

 

Act II = Candyland!

 

Well, The Land of Sweets. Same thing.

 

How wonderful to be welcomed into the Land of Sweets by Sara Mearns, as The Sugarplum Fairy. Her leading role is the reason I wanted to see this evening's performance of The Nutcracker. I've been mesmerized by her this year, especially as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. The best word I can think of to describe Ms. Mearns is solid. Sometimes when you're watching a performer you worry that he/she might slip, fall out of a turn or make a mistake. I never feel that way when I'm watching this exceptional principal. She nails everything, every time.

 

Of course, the entire second act is a thrill. From the darling little angels that glide across the floor to the hilariously quirky Chinese Tea (Lauren Lovette was one of the Tea dancers, and she was great!), it's all so much fun.

 

Lauren King was fantastic as the lead Marzipan Shepherdess. If you like Lauren, wait for the February issue of DS. You'll get a whole lot more of her!

 

Tiler Peck, a favorite of mine, rounded out the Land of Sweets performances as Dewdrop. Honestly, is there a more fun, lively and adorable performer in the ballet world right now? Ms. Peck is quick on her feet and absolutely charming. The Dewdrop role was a fitting one for her.

 

Behind Ms. Peck, Brittany Pollack was a standout in the Flowers piece. Again, her stunning beauty doesn't hurt! But she's also got killer feet, great extension and a strong upper body.

 

In case it's not clear, here's my summary: New York City Ballet's Nutcracker is awesome. Go see it. I've been listening to my "CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!!!!!" playlist ever since I left Lincoln Center on Friday night.

(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Photo by Erin Baiano

Click here to vote for Emma.

There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "

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