The Nutcracker returns to Lincoln Center
It’s not the Christmas season until Marie and her Nutcracker Prince explore the Land of Sweets with the Sugar Plum Fairy. The New York City Ballet opened its annual season of The Nutcracker on Nov. 23, at the David H. Koch Theatre, and year after year, the classic is still as magical as ever before.
George Balanchine’s masterpiece is set to Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky’s glorious score and features choreography by Balanchine, stunning scenery by Rouben Ter-Arutunian,elaborate costumes by Karinska and lighting by Mark Stanley. Based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (1816), children’s eyes widen at the holiday production, which includes Northport native Erica Pereira, who will be performing in the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop.
“I love the fact that you can express how you’re feeling through movement,” said Pereira, who danced from the age of 3 to 10 on Long Island. “Performing always made me feel happy and it’s nice to be able to do a job that you enjoy everyday.”
At the age of 17, Pereira began traveling into the city for more serious ballet lessons, training at Ballet Academy East before attending the School of American ballet. She earned her apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 2007 and has been with the company ever since. A soloist for the past eight years, for Pereira, 29, dancing The Nutcracker is like performing a childhood dream.
“I always dreamed about doing both of those roles and got to do them young into the company when I was about 20, so it’s pretty awesome,” she said, looking up to all the other ballerinas when she was younger. “It’s a dream come true to be able to do those roles and I have grown in them so much. The roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop are very special and so iconic to most little girls, who idolize those parts.”
Having been around for decades, The Nutcracker still remains a holiday classic to this day. The season is short, but it is packed with about 40 performances over six weeks. Pereira agrees that the family show is special to many aspiring ballet dancers that are watching.
“It’s a show that can spark their interest in doing ballet,” she said. “We do it so many times, but we have to remember that a lot of the audience may be seeing the ballet for the first time.”
And with so many exquisite set displays and scenery in a rainbow of colors and dripping with crystals—and let’s not forget the most famous example, the one-ton Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 feet to 41 feet—it’s hard to pick a favorite, but Pereira has one.
“I love the snow scene,” she said. “It’s so pretty, especially if you see it from up above in the balcony. There’s so many patterns, it’s just so beautiful.”
The Nutcracker season will always be special to the local ballerina as she got accepted into the company during Nutcracker season and was promoted to soloist during the holidays as well. Sharing that Christmas is her favorite—she loves the smell of trees, decorated storefronts and snow…most of the time—Pereira spends the Christmas holidays with her family on Long Island.
“My family and I always see a movie Christmas afternoon then we go to a nice dinner,” she said of her holiday tradition.
Post-Nutcracker, Pereira will be dancing in Interplay, a ballet by Jerome Robbins as well as Sleeping Beauty in the winter. Her message for aspiring dancers is simple: work hard.
“If you love it a lot, follow your dream, push through and work hard,” she said. “There are so many companies around the country. Have a good work ethic and believe in yourself.”
If you haven’t seen The Nutcracker yet, put it on your bucket list because this production instills a sense of wonder and magic that is just as good as any Broadway show.
The Nutcracker runs through Dec. 30 and tickets are on sale now at www.nycballet.com, in person at the theater box office and by phone at 212-496-0600.