If you are like most ballet dancers right now, you are preparing for December Nutcracker shows. Nutcracker is my favorite time of year because it helps you to gauge where you have made improvements from the previous year. Whether you are performing new or the same roles in your school’s or company’s Nutcracker the following tips will help prevent you from getting burned out and allow for successful Nutcracker shows.
Tip #1: Perform Every Day: To keep a role from getting stale whether you are new to it or are repeating it from previous years, you must become the best actor/actress possible. I know you have heard this time and time again but you must pretend like you are on stage every time that you rehearse your role. If you approach each role as just going through the motions this may show come stage time. If you approach the role with the energy and enthusiasm that you would use in a performance it will be easier to do so on stage (and even help with nervousness!!).
Tip #2: Set Goals: Approach each rehearsal with a goal. Think something like “I will really focus on pointing my feet at the point where I usually get tired” or “I will hold my arabesque balance longer today” or “I will work on musicality.” In one of the ballet companies that I danced with, I performed the role of Sugar Plum Fairy three years in a row. If I hadn’t set goals for myself each year, I would have been so bored with the role. Each year I approached the role differently so that it would still feel new and fresh.
Tip #3: Visualize: Sometimes the most productive rehearsal for dancers can be one that involves no physical movement at all! Try this exercise- Play the music from your Nutcracker dance on your ipod. Lay down with your eyes closed and listen to the music, envisioning each step. Now envision yourself performing each step perfectly and seamlessly, the way that you want. This will help tremendously in rehearsals when it comes time to perform tricky dance sequences. I used to practice this before bed each night.
Tip #4: Don’t Stress: Nutcracker is all about having fun, right? So don’t sweat the small stuff. If you make a mistake on stage don’t let it show on your face. The audience will never know.
I wish you all a successful Nutcracker time whether you are performing with your school or company. Stay focused but keep it fun and you will be on your way to your best Nutcracker ballet performance yet!
Question: Hi Nikol! Love your facebook page and hoping to purchase your ebooks soon. I had a question regarding some acting difficulties in Nutcracker. I am Clara and my directors really want a strong “connection” between her and the nephew/nutcracker prince. There are times where I have to really look at him with “affection” and mean it! Its hard! Do you have any advice for connecting with your partner? Thanks! ~ Colleen
Answer: Hello Colleen. First off, I would like to say congratulations to you on landing the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. As a young dancer, performing the role of Clara was one of those times that I remember the most vividly and had the most fun dancing on stage. Now we all know the story of The Nutcracker, but I want you to find the book (if you don’t already have it) and really read the story. While you are reading the story, I want you to take careful note of the emotions that Clara is feeling. She is delighted by the gift that Drosselmeyer gives her, overwhelmed at this magical land that she didn’t know existed, enchanted by the prince who so bravely battled the Mouse King, etc. Write down a list of these different emotions. Now, think of the different instances in the ballet where you have to convey these emotions through choreography.
If you can immerse yourself completely in the role of Clara and focus on the story you are trying to convey, you shouldn’t have any awkward moments with the Prince. What I used to do is imagine the Prince to be a boy that I had a crush on. I know it sounds silly, but it works. So whether it’s Justin Bieber or Taylor Lautner, pretend like the “Prince” standing in front of you is him and feel what an honor it is to be led through the Kingdom of the Sweets by such a “superstar.” (Just don’t tell the prince that you are doing this! lol)
The other thing that can make you feel more comfortable around your partner is getting to know him a little better. If you two can become friends and have an awesome open communication that will also transfer well on stage.
Most of all, don’t be shy. Just as you should feel honored to be dancing with the Nutcracker Prince, you should feel even more honored to have been chosen to dance the role of Clara! Cherish the next two months in your “reign” as Clara and most importantly, have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know how it goes!
Committed to Your Dancing,
Over the past few weeks, I have been working diligently on my new book and website for you all based on strength training for Dancers. This is uncharted territory when it comes to ballet, so I have to be sure that the timing of my launch is right. To get started, here are a few basic things that you need to know about strength training for Dancers and how it can improve your performance and extend your career.
Lets debunk the common strength training and cross training myths that you have heard from your Ballet teachers.
Myth #1: You will get bulky muscles- This statement is totally untrue. In fact, if you are doing the correct exercises, your muscles should form a more elongated look! Strength training increases lean muscle mass. If you are working with a certified professional who understands a Dancers body, you should have any problems with bulky muscles. Now not all of you can have access to trainers like myself or the New York City Ballet’s strength and conditioning team, so stay posted to my blog for valuable tips for exercises that you can do on your own!
Myth #2: Taking extra Ballet classes is the only way to improve- Now most of you know that this is not true, but there are some Ballet teachers out there who are still preaching this. Cross-training is a great way to work on your weaknesses as a dancer through strength training, Pilates, yoga, or even taking a few jazz classes!
Myth #3: Strength training causes loss of flexibility- Untrue. It actually improves range of motion of muscles and joints. It also enhances dance proprioception. This creates improved awareness of your center of gravity (think balance and turns). Any good strength training or cross-training program will also incorporate stretching towards the end of the workout.
Myth #4: Strength training is for Men- True, but it is also beneficial for Women.There are many wonderful benefits to strength training including increased range of motion, injury prevention, increased lean muscle mass, improves balance, increases and restores bone density, and enhances sports performance. Now just think of how much that can improve your dancing!
I hope that through this post, you have a better understanding of the real benefits of strength training for Ballet Dancers. Remember, your strength training program needs to be tailored towards dancers, not just any program will do. If you have any questions please contact me.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out my NEW Ballet Strength Book, Beginning Ballet Strength HERE!