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For the professional dancers, the biggest “Nutcracker” woes involve their costumes, props and choreography. In the snow scene, for instance, little Clara encounters ballerinas dressed as snowflakes, whirling through a storm of silvery flurries, whipped along by some of the most gorgeous, dramatic music in the Tchaikovsky score. It is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Yet for the women onstage, the snow scene can be a stone-cold killer target ballet shoes. They’re circling around, jumping and spinning, desperate for air, but if they gasp, they’ll gag on fake flakes..
“Only closed-teeth smiles,” counsels dancer Elizabeth Walker of Los Angeles Ballet. “Breathe through your teeth.”. Johnson remembers her first year as a snowflake, wearing an icicle crown that she hadn’t pinned down tightly enough. During a series of turns, it flew off, and she danced the rest of the scene alongside her snowflake sisters as the single, conspicuously bareheaded flake — a mortifying rookie mistake target ballet shoes. But another novice snowflake had it worse. At one point, standing at the far end of the line, this young and very green apprentice gracefully bent down over her front foot and then rose to do a little jump along with the other ballerinas. Except she was stuck in the mesh fabric of the wing..
“The wing, like, ate her crown,” Johnson says. “She had to go offstage and get unstuck. It was, ‘Oh, we just lost a snowflake.’ ”. Male dancers have their troubles, too target ballet shoes. For Michael Sean Breeden, who recently retired from Miami City Ballet, his nightmare variation was the intensely athletic Candy Cane, performed to the fast, high-spirited “Trepak” music in George Balanchine’s version of “The Nutcracker.” The leading dancer carries a big hoop, and while he’s bouncing and leaping, he swings it overhead, flips it under his feet and whips it around himself like a jump-rope..
“There are 500 things that could go wrong,” Breeden says, and he’s suffered them all, including the smacked chin, banged skull, smashed toes and trips. “I had a year where I’d get caught in the hoop in a different moment each time. OK, so next time, I’d have my mental strategy, like, don’t pull your chin in. And I’d clear that hurdle, and the next sequence I hadn’t over-analyzed would get me.”. But even worse was his year with Boston Ballet, as the Bear in the first-act party scene, which he calls “possibly the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life.” He wore a big, furry head that complicated basic needs such as seeing and breathing. The choreography was virtuosic — difficult, strenuous turns target ballet shoes.
“I was in tears,” he says, “before and after.” target ballet shoes. And yet, the men and women interviewed for this article agreed that the men’s burden in most any version of “The Nutcracker” is nothing compared with what the ballerinas go through. “When the boys are complaining, we’re like, ‘Dude, you cannot be saying that. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t be talking to us right now,’” Johnson says. “I’m sure they get hot, and their hearts beat quite a bit, but the girls are getting corns and are in pointe shoes every day.”..