Behind The Scenes at Richmond Ballet’s Nutcracker
Viana Martinez as Clara and David Western as The Nutcracker Prince in The Nutcracker. Richmond Ballet 2013. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson
As a dancer seeing The Nutcracker is tradition. You are either dancing in it, helping restage choreography, or cheering your friends on from the audience. I honestly don’t think there is a dancer alive who can hear the first few measures of Tchaikovsky’s The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy without having a physical and/or emotional response. Sometimes we scream and jump up and down with excitement. Other times we cup our ears and pray the music will stop. Regardless, The Nutcracker, and our feelings surrounding it, are with us for life.
This year, however, I wanted to take a step away from the performance aspects and get to know more about the behind the scenes efforts that go into making The Nutcracker everyone’s holiday must see performance. The fabulous Kate Crowder, Richmond Ballet’s PR coordinator, filled me in on all the vigor that make Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker so spectacular.
For starters, the scenery is huge! It takes four semi-trailers to haul all the sets and equipment and 425 man-hours to transform the Carpenter Center into the Land of Sweets. When the dancers are onstage over 5 tons of scenery and lighting equipment hang overhead. 5 TONS! And you just thought the dancers were sweating from physical exertion. Lies. They are just hoping that the Stahlbaum home doesn’t come crashing down on them.
When it comes to costuming its no surprise that months of preparation are needed. Costume construction actually begins in the summer and continues up until the first performance, including hand sewing over 15,000 hand-sewn sequins. The classical tutus worn by the Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, and the Mirlitons are nothing short of couture. Each tutu takes over 40 hours to make and includes 10 layers of netting imported from Middlesex, England and 5 ½” of steel corset boning. If tutus were people, these would be the Beyonce’s of tutus. Absolutely flawless.
My favorite costume, the beloved Mother Ginger costume, is so massive that it must be suspended from the ceiling backstage and hung there until Mother Ginger is ready to enter the stage. Talk about making an entrance!
And lastly, the shoes. I’m a diva who loves her shoes. 250 pairs of pointe shoes are used during the entire run of The Nutcracker creating a shoe budget of $16,250. Makes the price of those Louboutins I want look pretty good right now. Don’t you think, Santa?
If these particulars don’t tickle your fancy, perhaps the 100 pounds of snow, 127,00 watts of power, and the talent of 189 dancers will lure you in.
Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker runs through December 23rd.
Rebecca A. Ferrell, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a dance educator, choreographer and performer. She is currently the artistic director of FDANCE, a project dedicated to her work as an intervention dance artist. Rebecca holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University as well as a MFA in Dance from Arizona State University. She is currently adjunct faculty at VCU Dance and is in charge of dance curriculum at John Tyler Community College. When she is not dancing, Rebecca is making cupcakes, breaking hearts, and obsessing over the color pink.
As far and as deep as Le Sacre du Printemps goes, the company’s visual elements were stellar.April 14, 2016
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