Spreading Holiday Cheer

Post by Development Operations Manager T.J. Morales

The holidays are certainly a stressful time of year! From shopping and cooking, to traveling and decorating, it’s easy to become lost in the whirlwind of activity that accompanies the Season. However, it’s important to remember that the holidays also represent a time to give thanks for the loved ones in our lives, as well as our health and well-being. In an effort to honor this most salient of holiday traditions, MCB took some time out on Tuesday, December 8th, to reach out to those in need of holiday cheer. Along with Meike Miniaci (MCB Board Member) and fellow MCB staff members Ailency Martinez and Kris Kramer (dressed as the Nutcracker Soldier), I spent some quality time with the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology patients of Chris Evert Children’s Hospital. With a bundle of complimentary Nutcracker tickets and an assortment of holiday gift bags in tow, our group had the privilege of spending an afternoon together with these truly amazing children. With their infectious laughter and wide smiles, these special kids reminded us that life is meant to be cherished and celebrated at every moment. And though they endure a daily struggle against a host of blood-borne cancers and other various diseases, their spirited nature tells a very different story.

Many thanks to the staff of the Broward Health Foundation and the Chris Evert Children’s Hospital for hosting MCB! It was an experience we’ll not soon forget. And a very special thanks to Meike Miniaci… without your generosity, none of this would have been possible.

Here’s to Twenty Years of Nutcracker at Miami City Ballet

Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay

It is that time of year again. Nutcracker is making its way into the halls of MCB as familiar strains of holiday music waft through the studios. Dancers learn new parts and brush off old ones, and children brim with excitement at the prospect of being on stage with the Sugar Plum Fairy. For most of us, Nutcracker is something we have been part of, one way or another, since childhood, and while the performances can seem endless, stories of Nutcracker are something that all dancers have in common.

Twenty years ago, Miami City Ballet opened its first Nutcracker season with about forty performances throughout South Florida. We had sold out standing ovations every night in every venue. The glowing reviews heralded the arrival of a new South Florida tradition. There were galas and celebrations. We toured through South Florida, beginning with endless hours of tech rehearsals and six performances in Naples, Florida during the week around Thanksgiving. From there we traveled to Clearwater for eight performances before returning to perform fifteen shows at Dade County Auditorium in Miami. The run finished with about ten particularly challenging performances at Bailey Concert Hall. Not only did these shows fall at the end of an exhausting run, but the dimensions of the stage required the large pieces of scenery to be set closer together that usual, subtracting from the performing area.

Through the years Nutcracker has continued to return to MCB, every year bringing a new set of challenges and surprises. Nutcracker mishaps are many, and often the best part of the story. More than once, overly -excited soldiers in the Battle Scene have left puddles on stage to be avoided by the Snowflakes. Headpieces and other costume parts fall off on a regular basis, it seems, leaving the dancers on stage with the challenge of surreptitiously removing the obstacle from the dancing space. Occasionally, other things fall onto the stage as well; it is not unusual for the snowflakes to hear items landing with a thud during the snow scene. Then, there was the year that lighting gels over the stage caught on fire and began to rain down during Waltz of the Flowers, with Sally Ann Isaacks as the Dewdrop. None of us who were present the first year will ever forget the dress rehearsal during which we heard Edward yell out, “Crista!!,” as he watched his young daughter, who was rehearsing the role of Marie, inadvertently run off the edge of the dark stage and fall into the orchestra pit.

Her fall was broken by a tympani drum, and after a few frighteningly silent moments her small voice called out, “Daddy, I’m ok.” Years later, during a performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, screams and shouts of, “Stop!” were once again heard from the audience. A fight between patrons had broken out, with two men rolling through the aisle. The newspaper later reported that one of the men had been talking and would not be quiet when asked. Despite the commotion, the dancers continued on, never once missing a step.

Not everything that goes on during a Nutcracker performance is visible to the audience. We have many of our own games that we play, some occurring on stage during performances. The ladies who dance in the Snow scene, many of whom will dance every single performance, are masters at creating storylines that help motivate them to perform the demanding snow choreography day after day with narratives that range from captive ice princesses to imaginary ice- skating competitions. In the past, a version of tag has been played during party scene. Originally intended as an exercise to create movement around the stage, one of the adult party scene guests attempts to tag another by placing an inconspicuous clip onto someone’s costume. Offstage, there is the yearly Secret Santa game.

More than just a gift giving occasion, Secret Santa turns into a company event no matter who is playing. It is impossible not to enjoy the antics as people are forced to earn their gifts by singing Christmas carols before company class, going on scavenger hunts around the theaters, or revealing some of their most embarrassing moments to the entire cast.

The first year in Nutcracker is always the hardest. And so it was for me that first year, dancing every performance of snow and flower corps in that first year, and also appearing as a parent in the party scene each show. My biggest fear was that I would not make it back to the stage in time for Snow. It was not easy to get out of that party scene costume, with its layers of petticoats, gloves, capes, etc. I remember racing from the stage to my dressing room to change my costume, and being in the corps, it seemed that our dressing room was the farthest from the stage. Off with one costume, and into the next, ripping out one headpiece and jabbing pins into my hair to secure the next, grabbing pointe shoes and shoving my feet into them. But as the years went by, Nutcracker seemed to become a little easier. By the second year, I shared a party scene spot, so I didn’t have to race every show to make the costume change. Seniority eventually grants a dancer an alternate for her snow and flower corps spots, and the first time I did not appear in the Snow Scene felt like a milestone. As time went by, I began to dance a variety of roles, including the Dewdrop and the Sugar Plum Fairy. I danced my first Sugar Plum Fairy fifteen years ago at the Broward School matinee. Being young and ambitious as I first learned the role, I worked to make the Sugar Plum Fairy everything I thought she should be, and ended up learning, over the years, that she is the product of so much more. There is no question that she epitomizes beauty, femininity and magic, and that under her reign, there can be nothing wrong in the world as she commands her kingdom with a swirl of her wand, but it is the grace, humility and patience learned from the early years in the corps that become prerequisites for the character of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

So, after a few more shows, this Nutcracker season shall also pass. We will all breathe a collective sigh of relief as we scurry our separate directions for Christmas. And yet, it is another set of stories to compile, another chapter in our ongoing Nutcracker history.

The wonderful thing about Nutcracker is that it keeps coming back.

Check out Patricia Delgado’s interview with Deanna during Naples Nutcracker.

More backstage Nutcracker action with Patricia Delgado

Here’s another installment of Patricia’s Nutcracker video journal! This time she reveals some Nutcracker secrets, chats with dancers and children during tech rehearsal and performances, and more fun backstage action!

Check back for more interviews and the last video journal.

Patricia takes on a new role: Interviewer

We hope you enjoyed going behind-the-scenes of Nutcracker with Patricia Delgado. More backstage coverage will soon be posted. Until then, here’s a special treat! Patricia interviewed some of the dancers and our stage manager during her time in Naples.

Check back for more interviews and backstage action!

Inside The Nutcracker with Patricia Delgado

Post by Principal Dancer Patricia Delgado

It’s Nutcracker time again! This year marks the 20th Season that Miami City Ballet is performing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™.

Every year we kick-start our Nutcracker run in Naples, Florida. We pack up our cars and drive across Alligator Alley and hope that our Thanksgiving meals won’t weigh us down! I brought the “Flip cam” with me and tried to capture the spirit of Miami City Ballet’s first Nutcracker weekend of the 09-10 Season.

There is something very special about performing The Nutcracker. It is one of the only ballets in which the Company collaborates with children. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Even though some of us have been performing in The Nutcracker for years, for some of the kids, it is their first time out on stage. Watching their smiles light up as they dance reminds me what performing is all about and takes me back to when I was a kid, dancing the “hoops” and dreaming of one day being the Sugar Plum Fairy!

Being on the dancer’s side of things, I know how much time and effort it takes us to focus on our goal of performing as perfectly as possible. However, after running around the theater with the “Flip cam”, it truly made me realize what a huge team effort it takes to put on this show! I gained a whole new perspective. I hope you enjoy all of the different aspects of the theater…from the dancers to the stage manager, the lighting director, the crew and the makeup and wardrobe ladies.

The holidays are such a magical time of year and being a part of The Nutcracker magic just enhances the joy!

Meet The Nutcracker

The Nutman and the Mouse King come head to head on December 11-13 at Broward Center and December 18-20, 22-23 at Adrienne Arsht Center. For tickets to MCB’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ click here or call (877) 929-7010.

Meet The Nutcracker Kids

Post by Crista Villella, Ballet Mistress

The Nutcracker Intensive rehearsal week has come and gone, and I am happy to report that the kids know all of the choreography and proper rehearsal behavior. Every year they get better and better! My angels are close to perfect and my soldiers can count the music, which is really difficult to do. I couldn’t be more impressed! Diana, one of the Marie’s, just came from Cuba and doesn’t understand English. I don’t speak Spanish, but amazingly we communicate quite well despite the language barrier and she is doing great work. Mariana, the other Marie, knows every part in The Nutcracker. She may just have to take over my job one day! The two Fritz’s are best friends and they are so funny. As sweet as they are, they are always testing to see how much I will let them get away with. They certainly have the gift of charm. The best part of my day is when I see the little ones in the hallway and they light up and say, “Miss Crista!” as they run to give me a hug. What could be sweeter? I have a pretty cool job.