The Small Dancers Who Make ‘The Nutcracker’ Sparkle

If final year’s output proved everything, it was that dimensions and spirit make a difference. The littler the youngsters are, the more huge the phase appears, lending the tale enchantment. Of course, there are unforgettable adult figures: the Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop, Mother Ginger and the Mouse King. But the young children are the ballet’s heart, the glue — what guides us down that route to really feel the inner thoughts.

This year, rejoice! The small bodies are back — while, due to the fact of the pandemic, they have very little knowledge. Of the 126 in the production (there are two casts) 108 are first-timers in the show.

Dena Abergel, Town Ballet’s children’s repertory director, sees “The Nutcracker,” which opens Friday at Lincoln Heart, as Balanchine’s coaching floor: It teaches small children of the Town Ballet-affiliated faculty how to become performers.

Typically, they get started out as Angels, progressing to far more technically innovative components — like the Sweet Canes and the Polichinelles — right until they age out (or increase much too tall for the costumes). Alongside the way, they learn choreography and professionalism.

But this yr, with so numerous starting off from scratch, is distinctive. “None of the top dancers and most of the dancers period of time have never been in ‘The Nutcracker,’” Abergel mentioned. “I’ve never experienced a Marie who does not even know what the party scene is, or a Prince who doesn’t know the sequence of the ballet. Which is just never occurred before.”

As envisioned, this youthful generation is thrilled. Eleanor Murphy, 9, who alternates the portion of the Bunny with Taiga Emmer, 8, first saw the Metropolis Ballet production when she was 3. “After the show, I was screaming mainly because I did not want to go household,” she said. “I took a image with one particular of the Snowflakes, which was interesting. I usually required to be in ‘The Nutcracker,’ and now I’m in ‘The Nutcracker.’”

She wrapped her arms close to herself and giggled. (It’s that kind of yr. The cuteness is subsequent level.)

Abergel is psyched to see these kids’ new tactic because they haven’t grown up in the manufacturing, they will be much less very likely to mimic what they’ve witnessed other little ones do. “They’re actually finding out it from us,” she reported. “In conditions of my role, it is seriously tough simply because they really do not know something about rehearsing. They really don’t know just about anything about the phase. They do not know about executing. So it is not just training the Angels.”

The Angel job instructs youthful dancers about diagonals — how to cross the stage and to make a circle. It teaches them how to depend to new music. Now, this means that she is giving the students new to “The Nutcracker,” Abergel reported, “a crash program to understand all the things about getting onstage, about rehearsing, about how to master choreography, about remembering it and piecing it collectively from one rehearsal to the subsequent.”

This manufactured casting, too, unusual this year, notably when it arrived to selecting Marie, the ballet’s young heroine. Abergel and Arch Higgins, the affiliate children’s repertory director at City Ballet, weren’t ready to foundation their choices on dimensions and past experience. And they experienced little feeling of the children’s remarkable means, which is critical for Marie, who will help to have the ballet.

Abergel created up acting sequences dependent on the choreography, “just to see who could express emotion, who could convey to a story,” she said. “It was very clear who stood out: Arch and I seemed at each and every other and we have been like, ‘OK, right here, we go.’”

Who bought the component? Two fantastic buddies, equally 10, with starkly unique personalities: the vivacious, remarkable Zofia Mendez and the more serene and dreamy Caroline O’Hagan. (Abergel enjoys it when that takes place: It displays the earth, she claimed, that you really do not have to be a specific style to be right for the role.) Zofia discovered that she would be actively playing Marie from her mother. “My mother asked, ‘Zofia, who is Marie?’ mainly because she wasn’t quite acquainted. I started out crying, and my mom was so confused.”

“‘That position is incredible,’” Zofia informed her mom. “So she began crying with me.”

O’Hagan initially saw ‘The Nutcracker’ when she was 2½. “I would always appear home and faux to be Marie,” she mentioned. “I in no way let my mother put absent the ‘Nutcracker’ that she acquired for me.”

Carrying the ballet on their tiny shoulders is a person issue. Marie’s silk taffeta costume for the festive celebration scene in Act I, poses another problem, a lot less spoken of: its heft and stiffness. “When I go to slumber,” Zofia claimed, “I have goals about myself in the most large costume, slipping down in the middle of the stage. Oh, my goodness.”

Abergel is nervous about other things: The coronavirus is still circulating, which usually means that children could be taken out of the clearly show at a moment’s recognize. “Let’s say it was Marie,” she explained. “We would phone the Marie from final 12 months. But that Marie from past yr is my peak, so which is no for a longer period an solution.”

That height: just less than 5 toes 7 inches. “So that is why I’m like, just have them as organized as possible every working day,” Abergel reported. “Because you do not know what’s going to materialize tomorrow.”

The Fort News