Sophomore remembers performing in ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet

nutrackerposterWith the holiday season already upon us, many people living in Austin are making plans to see Ballet Austin’s annual production of “The Nutcracker”, but sophomore Nellie Johnson can say she has a personal relationship with the show.

“I took ballet lessons with them from age 4 to 12, so eight years,” Johnson said. “After that I moved to a studio in Terrytown, but after half a semester trying contemporary dance there, I had to just quit dance altogether for school.”

Johnson danced in the production of “The Nutcracker”, which is a ballet performance that tells the story of Clara and her adventures with the Nutcracker prince, for three years and found it to be an unforgettable experience.

“The Nutcracker was so much fun,” Johnson said. “I performed as an angel for a few years when I was little, and I was a mouse for another year. I just loved being surrounded by people that loved dance as much as me.”

Though the work done on stage for the show may seem perfect and effortless, Johnson said it is a lot more work than anyone would think.

“It was auditioning for the show that was the scariest thing about it,” Johnson said. “You got numbers, and there were probably 50 people waiting in a room to try out. They lined you up and they taught you a dance combination. Then they would watch you do it in groups, then one by one. It was terrifying.”

The first time Johnson made it into the show, she was excited and proud she made it, but little did she know the auditions weren’t nearly as time-consuming as the rehearsals.

“The directors would mainly just work with the adults and the company, then they would say, ‘Bring the kids in!’ and we would run through our dances,” Johnson said. “It was still kind of scary because all the directors would be out in the audience watching us and they would stop our dances to make corrections. You wouldn’t want to mess up because you were on stage for those rehearsals.”

The attitude of the other dancers also helped to encourage Johnson during her years working on the show.

“Everyone was really friendly and welcoming,” Johnson said. “No one talked down to you. They would actually be interested in you and your work in the show. I was never intimidated by anyone, and I had friends in my classes that would also audition and be in the same parts as me, so it was a very fun experience.”

Johnson has several cherished memories from dancing in “The Nutcracker”, but one of her best memories was from when she would watch the other dancers perform from the sidelines.

“We got to wait just a little while before and after we went onstage,” Johnson said. “People were always running around backstage so they needed us out of the way, and the farthest out of the way backstage was out on the wings. So we could watch the soloists perform, and when they finished they would run offstage and ask us how they did. It was amazing because we were so close to these adults who were just fantastic at dance, and we were just nothings so that was really fun, just getting kind of immersed in that world.”

Though the show may have changed since Johnson used to perform in it, she said she knows Austinites love the tradition of going to see it every holiday season.

“Little kids love it,” Johnson said. “You can buy signed pointe shoes at the show, and that was one of my favorite things, but I really think people love going because it’s just a great story and a great ballet. Families love going to watch together.”

Comments are closed.