Behind the Lens with Leigh-Ann Esty: The Nutcracker

Post by Leigh-Ann Esty, Corps de Ballet

As a professional ballet dancer, my life is very busy. I am always learning new techniques, rehearsing five different ballets at a time, and traveling to different places every weekend. However, there is one thing about my crazy life that always stays the same…The Nutcracker. It comes once a year, EVERY year! When we begin to perform The Nutcracker, it means that the holiday season has begun. It is one of my favorite times of year! I began to photograph this ballet about three years ago. The colors are so vibrant in this production, which helps the photographs to be quite visually pleasing. There are five different parts of The Nutcracker that are my favorite to watch and photograph as well.

My first favorite part in The Nutcracker is the snow scene. This is such a magical moment in the ballet. Little pieces of white paper fall onto the stage, portraying the illusion of a blustery snow-covered forest. As the dancers jump around, “snow” is kicked into the air. Then, all of a sudden, the whole group of dancers run to the corner and stop abruptly, folding in half. Just when you think they are done, they start up again, shaking their pom poms that look like snow balls. I love the dramatics of this part! The music and choreography fit perfectly together.

In the second half of The Nutcracker, there are a number of divertissements. These act as entertainment in the Land of the Sweets. One of my favorites is the Candy Cane dance. The male lead in this has a very impressive part. He performs all of these tricks while jumping through a hoolahoop! It is quite exciting! I also love this music. It really gets me into the holiday spirit!

My all time favorite dance in The Nutcracker is the dance of the Dew Drop in Waltz of the Flowers. Her choreography is so musical and fluid. She gets to fly and spin across the stage. I get chills every time I watch this part, especially at the end when the music builds and explodes into a burst of energy. This is a dream role of mine!

Nutcracker would not be the same if it weren’t for the children. In this production, there are over 60 kids that get to participate. I love seeing their joy and excitement. It makes me remember when I was just starting out as a ballet dancer. My first role in The Nutcracker was a pollychenell. I will never forget feeling tears of joy every time I ran out from Mother Commedia’s skirt to bow. Now when I see the kids smile and beam on stage, I know exactly how they are feeling!

Click here to see Leigh’s Behind-the-Scenes of Nutcracker album on Facebook.

Click here to check out Leigh’s website.

Photos: Miami City Ballet dancers in George Balanchine’s The NutcrackerTM.  Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust. Photo © Leigh-Ann Esty.