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,
Through my extensive career as a professional dancer, I have observed some pretty strange pre-performance rituals. I have seen it all, and tried it all. So what works?
The truth is, not everyone is the same. There is no magic cure for nervousness, but there are things that you can do to calm yourself in the wings.
In Part 1 of Performance Nervousness, we will take the first step. Identifying the type of nervousness you are feeling.
Here are the categories of nervousness that I have defined through my years of dancing. See which category you best fit into or have felt in the past.
Prepared Nervousness– You feel well rehearsed, excited, pumped up. Maybe your family is out in the audience. You have a positive outlook on the upcoming performance.
Unprepared Nervousness– It feels like you are going into unfamiliar territory. You are doubtful, almost fearful. Maybe you were thrown into a role last-minute or were an understudy.
Combination of both– You are prepared but doubting yourself and your abilities. Even though you feel ready to perform a role, you are worried about uncontrollable factors.
Over-Prepared– You have rehearsed perfectly every day. Maybe you have even performed this role consecutive years. You are not nervous. After the performance you may even feel let down, although your performance went well.
Competitive Nervousness– You feel pressure. If you can perform well you will get a promotion. You want to outshine other dancers. Maybe your director or teacher watches the show from the wings.
Now that you have identified the type of nervousness you are feeling or have felt, we will move on to the solution. Stay posted for Part 2 of my Performance Nervousness series! As always your comments are greatly appreciated.
Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author
It’s our favorite time of the year…Nutcracker time! Young dancers all over the world are jumping with joy and bragging about the roles they have been cast in. Professional Dancers are sharpening their pencils in roles they have been dancing for years. What can you do to make sure you are prepared or in the pro’s cases avoid Nutcracker burnout?
Whether you are dancing a new role this year or repeating last years, you can use the same techniques to look beautiful and dance technically sound.
Music is a huge part of the equation. We all know the Nutcracker music all too well, but if you listen closely enough you may hear something new. Explore your musicality. If you are performing with an Orchestra, dance with the music. Listen to the music, don’t just dance on auto-pilot.
Nutcracker is a great time to work on your performance skills and stage presence. If you’ve performed this role before, approach this year with more confidence! Show the audience that you are comfortable in this role.
Improve your technique on these roles. Last year you did a double pirouette in Waltz of the Flowers…why not throw in a triple this year? This of course does not apply for the corp de ballet, but is a great way for a soloist to show off their stuff. Careful though…some artistic directors get angry if you do too much!
Stand out in the Corps de Ballet! As a kid, I always watched the corps member who smiled the most and looked like she was having the most fun. While you are dancing imagine that all eyes are on you! There are subtle ways that you can keep from blending in.
Enjoy yourself this Nutcracker season! Remember, Summer School and Company auditions are right around the corner and with auditions comes added stress.Learn more about how you can get rid of nerves with The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide.