The Nutcracker ballet
The Nutcracker ballet
Blog Interviews

Capezio Athletes share six unforgettable “Nutcracker” mishaps

  • May 17, 2016
  • by Laura Di Orio

One performance is never like another. Some shows may feel nearly “perfect” one day but “not so great” the next. Things happen. Dancers fall. Costume pieces break. Props get in the way. It is live theater, after all. And as long as everyone ends up okay, these shows can usually offer up a good laugh.

In a production with a long run, such as The Nutcracker, there are bound to be some flops. Here, Capezio Athletes share their own Nutcracker mishaps and how they played it cool.

Have you ever had a mishap onstage during The Nutcracker?

Barette Widell, former dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet
“While dancing for Pennsylvania Ballet and on tour in Cleveland, Ohio, we were dancing Snow, and instead of the snow releasing a little at one time, it all came down at once. Needless to say, it shocked us all and made the stage extremely slippery. When it happened, the entire audience let out a huge gasp, as I am sure it was quite a sight to see from the audience.”

Tiffany Hedman, dancer with The English National Ballet
“This one time really stuck with me when I was still a student at Boston Ballet School but performing with the company and in Flowers of The Nutcracker. We had Flower Cavaliers, and my partner and I were waltzing gracefully center stage when all of a sudden we both went down! Okay, that happens, so all we needed to do was stand up and continue, right? Well, it didn’t go that easily! When we tried to get up, my partner stepped on the tulle of my skirt and went down on top of me as I tried to also get up. By this point, all the other Flowers and Cavaliers were waltzing over us as we’re still rolling on the floor. It felt like 10 minutes! On our third try to get up, again gravity won and we ended up still laying there with him on top of me!

Needless to say, I was mortified, as being just a student dancing with the company, you don’t want to end up on the floor for most of the choreography. Now, I would laugh it off, but I was not laughing then. And to make it worse for me, my Dad, whom I didn’t get to see very much, had flown from California to see me perform on that night. Did I make you proud, Dad? Could you find me? Well, I made myself be seen, I suppose!”

Michele Wiles, artistic director of Ballet Next
“I was a little mouse in Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker during the early 90s, along with Rasta Thomas. I will never forget the battle scene when my tail got caught on the tree, and I kept trying to run and wasn’t going anywhere! Rasta yelled, ‘Stop moving!’ I then realized I was stuck on the tree and it was about to be torn down by my mouse tail! Rasta came to the rescue, unhooked my tail, and the show went on!

Also, I performed the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in Wilmington, Delaware. It was the last show, and Vice President Joe Biden was watching! For some reason, that last flying shoulder sit with my Cavalier didn’t work, and we crashed into one another. There were a few awkward moments, but within seconds we were dancing again like nothing happened. After the show, it was a real honor to meet the Vice President. He didn’t mention the crash. What a gentleman!”

Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, member of Orlando Ballet
“The Nutcracker has a substantial amount of intricate maneuvers that, to the audience, come off as magic. Normally all of those things happen behind the scenes, but The Nutcracker gives the dancers a chance to do some of these things on stage, mostly during the party and battle scenes. I was a party parent in one of my first Nutcrackers with the company and was responsible for rolling out the giant gift boxes that contained the dolls. It was my first time practicing with the box, so I wasn’t used to the clumsiness of the wheels. On the way in, I managed to wrestle the box on stage. Once the doll had been removed and I began to roll the box off, the wheel got stuck, which spun the box right into the backdrop, which made a huge ripple accompanied by a very loud thud. Although it was embarrassing and I definitely got a note for it, I thanked God that it didn’t break the backdrop and that it was only a dress rehearsal.”

Daphne Lee, member of Lustig Dance Theatre
“One year I performed the Sugar Plum role and at the end of the piqué turn section, I was supposed to land in a piqué arabesque. Because I was so dizzy doing piqué turns in a circle around the stage, I landed to my knees in fourth position instead, and you could see my whole body and face still swirling. I laugh every time I watch the video.”

Alexandra Elagina, dancer with Moscow Ballet
“Once, during a Great Russian Nutcracker performance, I had an ‘almost’ mishap. I always double-check that any props that I will use in a scene are in their place before I get into my place in the wings. One evening, my Nutcracker Doll (a very important prop!) was not in its usual spot, and I could not find it anywhere near. I asked all around, but no one knew where it was. What could I do? I had to get into place and go on stage without it. My heart was pounding. I kept looking in the wings to see if I could see it or if one of the other dancers found it. At the last minute, our costumer walked up to the prop table and replaced the missing Nutcracker Doll. He had needed some finishing touches!”

How did you recover from such a mishap and “play it cool”?

“As the old adage goes, ‘the show must go on’, so we all continued to dance, as cautiously as possible, trying to avoid the areas where the big clunks of snow were. We were all laughing inside while doing our best to avoid an embarrassing fall.”

“The only way to recover was to stay there and pray with my knee on the floor, and I could hear giggles in the audience since they could see I was dizzy. I had to wait until the applause was over to slowly get up and walk off stage and then get ready for fouetté turns. I was quite upset with myself, and since then, I rehearse and have gotten stronger so that I never have that weak ending again.”

“The key to playing it off is honestly to just keep focused and continue. If you show your remorse for making a mistake while you’re still on stage, the audience is drawn to you and it highlights what went wrong. The truth is that most of the audience has no idea what to expect when they watch a ballet, so a mistake to them is not necessarily noted unless you make it obvious.”

“I got back up on that stage the next day and never looked back. It’s a live performance, and that’s part of the excitement and joy of going to see a ballet, so embrace those moments and learn to not take yourself so seriously.”

“While the doll was missing, I had a back-up plan to improvise and take a shawl on the prop table up as a bundle looking like a doll. Not a great solution, but what could I do? The show must go on. The important thing was to keep dancing and not throw the other dancers off.”

Produced by Dance Informa.

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