It was dark backstage.
The blue, yellow and red lights flooded the stage from the wings and reflected a multi-hued rainbow on the backstage full-length mirror. My heart was racing and I thought I might choke on the flurry of butterflies in my stomach, but I had practiced long and hard for this role.
I secured the hooks on my tutu for the ninth time. I rolled up onto the tips of my pointe shoes and they felt perfect. Many of us used model airplane glue on the inside of the toe shoe to prevent it from going soft. I had sewed the satin ribbons on myself and they, too, were substantially tied with a little knot hidden beneath the satin wrapped around my ankle. My long brown hair was wound into a tight bun with a glittering headpiece that looked like autumn leaves. Somewhere deep inside of me there was a quiet confidence and a fierce determination to dance my very best.
Performing in “The Nutcracker” ballet, composed by Tchaikovsky in 1892, is usually the biggest event in a ballerina’s year. The entire second half of the production, after the story is established and intermission has passed, is dedicated to what we called the variations. Chinese, Arabian, The Waltz of the Flowers . . . the names vary among productions, but I was about to dance the demi-solo role in of Waltz of the Flowers.
I stood in the wings while the four Woodnymph dancers entered the stage. I waited for my musical cue from the live orchestra at the De Jong Concert Hall at BYU, every muscle taut and ready. When it came, I whirled onto stage in a series of chaînés turns, and suddenly, I was home. The 1500 audience members ceased to exist. It was me, the dance and the music.
“The Nutcracker” ballet suite is a holiday staple for many. I rehearsed and performed relentlessly with the Utah Regional Ballet, directed by Jacqueline Colledge, every holiday season for 12 years of my life. The Nutcracker has become tradition for my family. Holiday plans revolved around which role I was dancing on a certain night. If it was a new or challenging role, like the Woodnymph solo or the Arabian Princess, my family would drop everything to attend. Their unyielding support never failed to inspire me to dance my best – to have my legs in a perfect split in a leap called a grande jeté,and to execute every turn flawlessly. In my opinion, Utah Regional Ballet is the best of the best in Utah County. You can catch “The Nutcracker” at The Covey Center for Arts Dec. 10-17.