The Nutcracker in America is kind of like a necessary evil. The undeniable crowd-pleaser runs without fail year after year at companies around the country, with thousands of young, future dreams of balletic sugarplums being placed, like inception, into the minds of children.
Dancers have mixed emotions about the ballet. In this case, we had started rehearsing at the beginning of November. So, by the time we went on stage in December, the snowflakes had truly settled in our minds. The music was not to be left to the studio as department stores, cafes, and restaurants would all unleash their Nutcracker playlists upon the public just after Halloween in an inevitable, clockwork unveiling of "Christmas Spirit".
Speaking of Snowflakes, I was set to dance the Snow King, Arabian, and a party parent. Snow King was fun in the studio and I was enjoying the work I was doing with my partner, Jennifer. Then the stage rehearsal came. I wasn't ready for the catastrophe that was about to unfold.
Flame-retardant paper snow was everywhere. It blanketed my hair, my face, and found its way down my throat. I couldn't see, let alone perform the way I knew was possible. Adding to challenge The Snow Queen's costume was challenging to partner. In an effort to create a visually stunning snowflake effect, the waist of the tutu billowed out, making it difficult for me to find my partner's body. Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, my rehearsal took me from confident to fearful and disappointed.
Clearly, the direction felt the same way I did. I had originally been planned to dance multiple shows of The Snow King, but in the end, only danced one. I believe my count that year was 10 Mr. Green's, 5 Arabians, and 1 Snow King, for a total of 16 out of 32 shows.
Marie-Claire had it much harder than I did though. She danced in 31 of the 32 shows, her toenails so raw that even in nearly freezing temperatures at night, she was forced to wear flip-flops from the stage door to the car in order not to have anything touching her toes. It was a whirlwind of Mirlitons, Snowflakes, Party Parents, and flowers that often ended in tears, Bonjela (for toenail numbing), and a Groundhog Day effect of never-ending syrupy Tchaikovsky.
Eventually, it all came to a close, and we were able to celebrate our first Christmas in San Francisco, uneventfully and peacefully in a sort of post-Nutcracker daze.
Just around the corner were 5 months of performances of everything we had been rehearsing the previous 6 months. What would be the outcome? Would we make it through the intensity of such a closely scheduled performance season? Would we have our contracts renewed for another year? For now, these questions could wait as it was time to rest, recover, and repair. The calm before the storm.