Meet Backstage Ballet Dancers
To try out living in a snow globe, step backstage during a production of The Nutcracker. Watching from the wings, you’re just a grand jeté away from ballerinas dressed in white tulle leaping through the air and stretching their limbs in perfect form. In a quintessential scene from the classic holiday ballet, the dancers alight on a fairy-tale-worthy dusting of fresh snow, taking the first steps through the flakes.
While Tchaikovsky’s score echoes throughout the Murat Theatre, and the experienced ballerinas teeter on their pointed pink toes, the child dancers waiting in the wings mimic the moves they see on stage—practicing for the time they may one day be in front, basking in that glow of the footlights.
It all unfolds as the Indianapolis School of Ballet stages its annual production of The Nutcracker. In 2016, the academy added live music, molding the performance into a new form of art. The conductor watches the dancers and matches the music to their moves—very different from a prerecorded soundtrack.
Behind the heavy velvet curtains, magic is alive in the student dancers, like the boys, who form a line of red toy soldiers, waiting patiently with wooden guns before funneling into a 6-foot-high gift box and being rolled out on stage. Then there’s the sheer wonder of Mother Ginger’s costume, which takes at least four people to help the dancer into and has room for six little Polichinelles, the children who burst forth from beneath its springy skirt.
“You dream and let your imagination run wild,” says Dustin Layton, who danced the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Cavalier last year, of the up-close-and-personal view. “You get to see the story through a child’s eyes.”