Follow our complete guide to getting ready for your Nutcracker performance and making it your best yet!
The most enchanting period in a dancer’s calendar is fast approaching: Christmas performance season! As important to the holidays as festive films or Secret Santa, your Nutcracker performance is a chance to ignite festive spirit and show off all the amazing progress you’ve made this year!
A classic Russian ballet established in 1892 by Lev Ivanov, The Nutcracker follows the story of an enchanting adventure that begins when Clara is gifted a nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. Coming to life at midnight, the pair embark on a magical journey together, through a fairy-tale battle between mice and toy soldiers, a wonderland of snowflake dancers and the kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Featuring a score by Tchaikovsky, this famed ballet has been enchanting audiences for decades, and has become a must-do tradition synonymous with the festive season.
For dancers, performance season can be a little nerve-wracking as well as exciting – your packed rehearsal and show schedule can feel overwhelming, and some pre-show nerves will inevitably surface, but just remember, nothing compares to the joy on the audience’s faces or the sound of roaring applause once you’ve put on amazing show! Follow our guide for staying at the top of your game so you can shine extra brightly under that spotlight come Nutcracker season.
Practice makes perfect
You can’t beat the feeling when the stage is set and the curtain goes up, signalling ready, steady, go, right? And the last thing you want to feel is that you wish you’d squeezed in more rehearsal time to get it perfect. It sounds obvious, but the best way to perfect your steps, especially if there is a move or transition you can’t quite grasp, is with as many rehearsals as possible, so make sure you attend every one. You might find it useful to bring a notebook with you to jot down any corrections or changes to the routine during rehearsal too.
Practising the choreography as much as you can outside of the studio will also help — in class, at home, at your friend’s house, you name it. Performing in front of your friends and family is a great chance to gain honest feedback from someone other than your teacher, and will help you gain confidence in front of an audience too. Tip: Our BLOCH professionals suggest always practising rehearsals wearing a tutu so you’re used to costume when it comes to the real thing.
Support your troupe
Chances are the rest of your dance group will be experiencing the very same excitement, nerves and emotions as you – particularly if you’re performing far from home. Supporting each other through those tougher moments will make the experience so much more fun – just make sure you celebrate the highs together too!
Stock up on the essentials
Make sure you’re fully prepared for every performance by stockpiling everything you’ll need to see you through. Have you ticked off everything on our checklist?Don't forget: Pointe shoes and ballet flats, hair kit, tights (including spare pairs for those unforeseen snags) makeup, pointe shoe kit, training accessories such as resistance band and toe padding, and of course spare tutu and leotards. It's a good idea to order your costume within plenty of time to make sure it fits you perfectly and allow time for any alterations if necessary.
Double-check your dance bag
If time is limited before you head to theatre, you’ll be so glad you packed your dance bag the night before. Check you’ve got everything you need — did you remember to pack every piece of your costumes? The right dance shoes? What about spare tights and your body stocking to make changes a doddle? Make sure you've packed your water bottle and lots of nutritious snacks to keep you going too. Another quick check just before you leave for the theatre will prevent any last-minute worries.
Look after your mind and body
It's normal to feel a little apprehensive the night before your Nutcracker show, it’s a physically (and emotionally) demanding time after all! Try to have a healthy, light dinner and go to bed early if you're able to so you'll feel fresh and ready for the stage come morning (even if you’re too nervous or excited to sleep!) Aim for 7-9 hours rest.
Principal dancer Sasha Mukhamedov recommends taking a relaxing evening bath to ease sore feet and muscles. “After long days dancing I often do a foot soak," she reveals. "I fill a bucket with warm water and add about 1/2 cup or a cup of Apple cider vinegar and it works like magic! If you add Epsom Salt it works even better. I soak for 15 to 20 minutes before going to bed and it really refreshes my feet for the next day."
Christine Shevchenko, also a Principal dancer, recommends staying hydrated: "I drink lots of water and electrolytes the day before a performance and the day off to prevent muscle cramping," she says. "I also eat lots of bananas!"
Learn from the professionals
No one understands the pressures of performance season quite like the professionals, so who better to take advice from than our BLOCH professional dancers? Here’s how they prepare:
“I read literature that laid the foundation of the ballet, watch videos on its history and other dancers performing it, then try to discover my own expression during rehearsals,” reveals Maria Khoreva. “I also love the visualisation technique; it helps to close my eyes and imagine doing the moves exactly how I want them to look - I always find it much easier to rehearse the next day!”
“Once I finish my afternoon rehearsals, I’ll eat a nutritious meal to give me energy for performance,” advises Yasmine Naghdi. “Whilst getting ready, I prepare my feet in my Warm Up Booties and all-in-one outfit, before going to the studio to stretch. Once I feel warm, I return to my dressing room, put on my tutu or costume and head to the stage. Here I get into my zone and a few minutes before I’m due to go on stage, I jog from my dressing room to the wings, then it's ready, steady, go!”
Always warm up properly
Ahead of every performance — including your run-through or rehearsal on stage — make sure you've properly stretched and warmed up in order to wake muscles and prevent injury. Arrive to theatre in plenty of time so you don't have to rush this important prep step. Keep your muscles warm in our Warm Up Booties, and don’t forget your wrap top, bottoms and leg warmers to keep warm in the studio and side stage too — the venue might have the air conditioning cranked up high, so these extra layers will help your body stay loose and warm.
Just before stepping on stage, remind yourself of your steps, and all those corrections from your teacher or ballet master, take a few deep breaths and most importantly, enjoy the moment!
BLOCH wishes you the best of luck in your Nutcracker performance, you’ve got this!