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  • Avery Sutherland

Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker

Backstage at the Bill Heard Theatre of the River Center for the Performing Arts, a palpable sense of anticipation fills the air. Dancers in the wings literally jump up and down with jitters, and the noticeable chill in the air sends shivers down everyone’s spines.


The stage is set for The Columbus Ballet’s annual production of the quintessential ballet, The Nutcracker, and this moment before the curtains open is one of my perennial favorites. This year marks my fourth performance in this particular show, and I’ll be dancing the roles of snowflake, main flower, and Spanish.


Keep reading for an inside look at what it takes to get a ballet of this caliber onstage and performance-ready!


The rehearsal process begins as early as August, when auditions are held on a Saturday afternoon. After the cast list is released, rehearsals begin the first weekend after Labor Day and continue on Fridays and Saturdays into the month of December.


The time required throughout this process is a serious commitment, and this is even more true for the dancers in middle and high school.


“Balancing academics and dance has been incredibly difficult. The stress of dancing a principal role has made doing my schoolwork even harder, and I'm at the studio constantly. I've had a lot of late nights, since my homework has to be done,” says CHS senior Eleanor McCoy, who is dancing the roles of Snow Queen and main flower this year.


As the leaves begin to fall and the weather begins to change, preparations for the show continue to build until the calendar reaches the two words dreaded by every performing artist: tech week.


Tech week is the week leading up to the dates of the performances themselves, and it is during this week of late nights that the show gets translated from the studio to the stage.


“Going into tech week is always a little difficult,” says CHS junior Kate Harbison, who is dancing the roles of snowflake, main flower, and Marzipan this year.


Both Harbison and McCoy attribute this to the number of moving parts that are required to come together in limited time and space in order for the show to run smoothly. This includes the costumes, props, set pieces, lights, orchestra, and more. And that’s not even counting the cast itself or the countless volunteers who keep everyone organized backstage, help with quick changes, and so much more.


At the end of the day, the show goes on despite any incidents that occur behind the curtains and becomes something truly magical that is a worldwide holiday tradition for ballet dancers and audience members alike.


Harbison says, “Going to see a ballet is a great way to expand horizons and appreciate culture!”


The Columbus Ballet is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, and it will mark 25 years of The Nutcracker in 2021.


In honor of this occasion, the company is offering a special 20% discount for both military and students (and yes, that includes high school students)!


Local restaurants have also partnered with The Columbus Ballet to offer a 10% discount for patrons who show a Nutcracker ticket through December 15th. It’s not too late to buy a ticket, so join us this weekend for dinner and a ballet!


As McCoy put it, “Ballet just pulls you into a story in the way that drama can't- it's so different and magical that students will be blown away by what they've just experienced.”

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If You Go:

Saturday, December 14th: 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 15th: 2:30 p.m.

River Center for the Performing Arts

tickets: rivercenter.org or at the River Center Box Office


*Student tickets start at $16! You must purchase your ticket in person at the River Center Box Office and show your student ID in order to receive discounted pricing.*

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