Skylar Brandt in the Chinese Dance in ABT's The Nutcracker
Skylar Brandt in the Chinese Dance in ABT's The Nutcracker
Blog Interviews

My Favorite “Nutcracker” Role

  • May 17, 2016
  • by Laura Di Orio

Capezio Athletes share their Nutcracker memories.

For many dancers, The Nutcracker is their first introduction into the world of ballet. Perhaps they saw it as a young child, or first performed on stage as a little mouse in their school’s production. Surely, they dreamed of someday dancing the role of Clara, the Sugar Plum or the Soldier Doll, just to name a few. Regardless, The Nutcracker often holds much history and nostalgia with professional dancers. Many have gone on to perform in this holiday classic each year since, sometimes performing new roles and other years growing with roles they’ve danced before.

Here, Capezio Athletes reflect on some of their favorite roles in The Nutcracker and also some characters they would someday like to perform.

What is your favorite role to perform in The Nutcracker, and why?

Tiffany Hedman, dancer with English National Ballet
“Snow Queen, bar none. The music moves me like nothing else, making me feel beautiful and free. I love having a partnership on stage as well, so with my Snow King by my side, I am transported into another world of endless possibilities. However, not all Nutcracker productions have a Snow Queen and King! Each company holds a different and unique version of our favorite Christmas-time ballet.”

Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, member of Orlando Ballet
“I think the music for Snow Pas de Deux is one of Tchaikovsky’s most beautiful pieces, and to me it has always been special because it was the first big pas de deux that I ever performed on stage.”

Michele Wiles, Artistic Director of Ballet Next
“I love the Sugar Plum Fairy role. I never get tired of hearing the beautiful Tchaikovsky score or dancing the pas de deux. It’s so emotional and passionate. It’s such an honor to be a part of this tradition.”

Skylar Brandt, corps dancer with American Ballet Theatre
“I particularly loved playing the role of Clara as a young girl, as I so enjoyed helping to tell the story of The Nutcracker. The acting aspect of playing Clara really appealed to me. With ABT, my favorite roles are the Chinese Dance and Snow. The Chinese Dance is very technical and sprightly, which is fun to do in front of audiences. I also love being a Snowflake, as ABT’s version calls for a chilly, mean take on the scene. It’s fun to have a chance to be sinister on stage.”

Yuki Yashima, member of Nashville Ballet Second Company
“I like to dance Waltz of the Flower’s because I love to use my upper body – port de bras – as calm, soft and elegant, like flowers. And I just feel so happy while dancing it.”

Daphne Lee, member of Lustig Dance Theatre
“My favorite role I have ever performed was the Grand Pas de Deux being Sugar Plum. For the first time, I was introduced to such a classical work, working with another professional dancer, and noticing the impact I had when I performed that pas de deux in elementary schools. Many students were excited to see Sugar Plum Fairy in a classical tutu and pointe shoes, and the Cavalier, both of color.”

Gracie Huber, dancer with Ballet Next
“My favorite Nutcracker role to perform is Snow. I love corps pieces where you really get to dance, and Snow is definitely that. There is something so beautiful about a whole group of dancers taking up the whole stage in swirling formations, and the snow falling all around adds an incredible visual dimension that I love.”

James Marion Floyd, III, dancer with The Joffrey Ballet Chicago Studio Company
“I would say my favorite Nutcracker role to dance is Russian because of the beautifully exhilarating musical score. Also, the role allows you to embody a vibrant, charismatic figure while keeping the audience alive.”

What is a Nutcracker role that you’ve never had a chance to perform but have always wanted to dance?

Tiffany Hedman
“Besides Mouse King?! That’s been a dream of mine from very early on! I now have one a little less furry and a little more graceful, too. Having performed almost every role from Clara to Snow Queen at one time or another, I’d have to say that having just been introduced to English National Ballet’s version where Clara also dances to my favorite Snow Queen music in the first act and to Sugar Plum music in the second act, that would be the ultimate role I’d like the pleasure of performing.”

Daphne Lee
“One role that I always wanted to do was Spanish. Not only for its accents and costume, but also because I am a Latina. I may not be from Spain, but my father is from Panama, so I can relate to such culture and energy. As a new member of Lustig, I will be performing Spanish this year. The choreography is both fun and challenging, with cross-phrasing of music, showing such strength.”

Luis Eduardo Gonzalez
“I’ve never had the opportunity to perform Arabian, but would definitely love to someday. The music has a hypnotic, sultry quality that I feel would be fun to tap into when performing it.”

Skylar Brandt
“A Nutcracker role I would love to perform is the grown-up Clara in ABT’s The Nutcracker. Alexei Ratmansky choreographed a beautiful and incredibly challenging pas de deux that I would someday love to tackle. To be able to accomplish performing it well would be a huge achievement.”

Gracie Huber
“A role I have always wanted to perform is Arabian. I was able to learn it at Grand Rapids Ballet before I got injured, but I have not been able to perform it and would love the chance to. I have always loved how different it is from the rest of the ballet and how much it accentuates the lines of the dancer. I also feel like each dancer can really put her own style and personality into the role. I have always loved watching different dancers interpret it and would love to do that as well!”

Yuki Yashima
“I would like to dance the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum because I know that these roles are really hard to dance and difficult to get a chance to perform. But I love the music of Snow Pas de Deux and Sugar Plum’s Grand Pas de Deux so much. Those pieces of music always touch my heart – they are just gorgeous to me.”

James Marion Floyd
“I would say the one Nutcracker role I have never danced, but would eventually love to dance, is Mouse King. The battle scene not only provides the audience with extremely athletic dancing but also powerful character persona sequences. It would be so thrilling to lead the battle scene and own a legendary death scene on stage.”

Michele Wiles
“The role that I’ve always wanted to perform is Arabian. I always found it to be a very powerful role for the woman. However, I am thrilled to have had many chances to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy. This year, I will be dancing the role with Chase Finlay, New York City Ballet principal dancer, at the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet, and with Zach Catazaro, New York City Ballet soloist, at the Wilmington Ballet.”

Produced by Dance Informa.

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