Behind the Scenes: The Nutcracker
Everyone has their favorite holiday traditions, things that will forever bring back memories of the season. Whether it is the smell of the crisp winter weather blowing in, the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate or the laughter of family and friends surrounding the fire place, we all have something that brings back the magic of the holidays. For me, it was when the lights went dark as I heard Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker: Overture come through my ears, and suddenly the curtains opened, and I felt that Christmas spirit that we all know, but can’t quite put into words. You can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to speak with Nicholas Dragga, executive director for Ballet Lubbock, to get an inside look at The Nutcracker and just what makes it so magical.
Can we expect anything new or special from the performance this year?
It is the same Nutcracker in regards to the overall story and picture. However, Yvonne Racz Key, artistic director for Ballet Lubbock, creates new choreography for the Act II every year. For some Acts, we made a whole new set of costumes. Mother Ginger, traditionally played by a man, is usually a local personality. This year you can expect Mayor Dan Pope, along with four other men special to the Lubbock community. Mother Ginger’s large skirt, although it seems like a costume, is actually scaffolding operated completely by the stage hands.
How much time goes into planning and preparing for The Nutcracker performance?
Traditionally, production planning generally takes around nine months. Auditions and preparations for dancers start in August. In regards to wardrobe, it can take anywhere from 30 to 50 hours for just one tutu. With all that in mind, it is no surprise that it can take over a year to plan and prepare. Planning for 2017 will begin in January or February, but planning for 2018 and 2019 is even in progress already.
What are your hopes for the future of The Nutcracker?
2019 will bring about new and exciting possibilities as Ballet Lubbock anxiously awaits the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences to be complete. The Ballet Lubbock team is already making plans for the redesigning of backdrops for the transition. For example, there is a vision for the snow scene to essentially feel as if the audience is in a snow globe.
Do the performers have any rituals?
While most rituals will remain secret, a ritual we can share with you includes crowd favorites, the Party Parents. They draw straws before each show and play different quirky, fun characters depending on what they draw. Almost always, you will notice one character that will suddenly become blind.
Is there anything you want the audience to know before watching the performance?
Although so much is happening in Act I, the audience will be rewarded if they pay close attention to that scene. They will see some subtle yet special symbols that will carry over to Act II.
More importantly, Amar Ramasar, Principle Dancer at the New York City Ballet, will be performing as the Cavalier. He has one weekend off a year during the Nutcracker, and he chose to come to Lubbock. He is familiar with Lubbock after first coming as an 11-year-old touring. Eventually, he sparked a friendship with Yvonne and a love for the “Hub City” and Louie Louie’s Piano Bar. He once turned down a chance to go to Hawaii just to come to Lubbock. Ballet Lubbock is incredibly honored and excited to have him as a part of the show.
Are there any behind the scenes secrets the community might enjoy?
Unfortunately, we do not have time to dry clean the costumes between shows, the team sprays them with vodka to keep them clean. While unconventional, it works.
For more information on The Nutcracker performances, visit our events page. Share your favorite holiday tradition in the “Hub City” with us using #LiveLoveLubbock!