A sunny Nutcracker?

  • December 22, 2016
  • by Laura Di Orio

ABT dancers on presenting the winter classic in warm California.

In The Nutcracker, the scene is set: it’s Christmastime and chilly outside, but the Stahlbaum family is warm in their home, hosting a holiday gathering with guests decked out in their winter best. And to add to the magic, the snow has probably begun to fall outside.

 April GiangerusoWe think of The Nutcracker as a winter story ballet, but what happens when you’re performing this winter wonderland in sunny California? Since 2015, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) has taken its production from freezing NYC to the warm west coast, presenting the ballet at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.

So what do ABT dancers think about it? How does the climate change their feeling of the ballet and their preparation for dancing in it?

Before ABT’s winter stint in California, the company presented Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Dancers and crew would sometimes have to trudge through knee-deep snow to get to the theater because, no matter the weather, the show would always go on.

Brittany DeGrofft, a member of ABT’s corps de ballet and also a Capezio Athlete, is originally from Tucson, Arizona, but says she got used to cold NYC winters and that first snow to ring in the holiday season.

“There’s nothing quite like the Christmas season in the city,” says DeGrofft, who will perform the Spanish dance, Arabian, a Nutcracker’s Sister, a Snowflake, a Flower and a Party Parent in this year’s production.

But the switch to California was a welcome change for DeGrofft and other dancers. “It’s not too terrible getting to hang out by the pool on our off days in California,” she adds. “I got used to the climate change pretty quickly. Rehearsing and performing The Nutcracker always puts me in the holiday spirit regardless of where I am.”

ABT Corps de Ballet dancer and Capezio Athlete April Giangeruso, who will perform the roles of Mrs. Stahlbaum, a Snowflake, Arabian, a Nutcracker’s Sister and a Flower this year, agrees.

“It is so nice to escape NYC’s long, cold winter for a couple weeks!” she says. “I did grow up in Maryland, so I am used to a cold Christmas, but I think the holiday is so much more about spending time with family and friends that the weather is secondary.”

ABT's April Giangeruso in The Nutcracker.Packing for the trip must feel a bit backward. As the dancers are bundled up in sweaters on the east coast, they’re packing swimsuits and sundresses!

“I definitely pack a lot less when we perform in California!” DeGrofft shares. “I bring about half the amount of warm-ups and things like that to the theater.”

Giangeruso adds, “It is a bit less difficult to warm up when you are walking off the street from 70-degree weather instead of 20-degree weather, but once you start to do your class you forget about the outside temperature.”

Giangeruso does point out, however, that sometimes when it’s warm outside, theaters have their air conditioning on full blast, so it’s good to be prepared with some cozy cover-ups as well.

Both DeGrofft and Giangeruso say they’re looking forward to ABT’s west coast Nutcracker again this year and to bringing holiday joy to sold-out audiences.

“There are many places around the world that celebrate their holidays in warm weather, and sometimes us east coasters especially forget that,” Giangeruso says. “The Nutcracker is just a sweet, whimsical story that gets us in the holiday spirit, no matter what the temperature is outside!”

Article produced by Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Capezio Athletes and ABT dancers April Giangeruso and Skylar Brandt backstage during ‘The Nutcracker’. Photo courtesy of Giangeruso.

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