It’s the middle of November; winter is upon us, exams are fast approaching, Thanksgiving is next week, and Christmas music is starting to play on the radio. Some of you may be thinking that it is way too early for Christmas as we haven’t yet celebrated Thanksgiving, and others of you maybe be thinking that the season has begun, so bring out the decorations and turn on the carols. I have been celebrating Christmas since the end of August. My name is Olivia Mian, I am a freshman as HB and a company dancer with the City Ballet of Cleveland. I dance six to seven days a week about three to eight hours per day. I train intensely in the styles of classical and neoclassical ballet, along with contemporary, modern, jazz, and lyrical. Right now, City Ballet is amid rehearsals for our Nutcracker, The Uniquely Cleveland Nutcracker. 

At City Ballet, we hold auditions for our production, open to anyone, around the end of August to early September. I am currently rehearsing for Nutcracker five out the seven days a week, while also rehearsing for other performances (For example YAGP or the Youth America Grand Prix and City Ballet’s Gala) and taking class. I love the rehearsal process. Though it is long, painful, exhausting, and seriously taxing, it is a part of who I am. This will sound strange and/or crazy to anyone who isn’t deeply passionate about something, but I love every second that I spend dancing. Dance is how I express myself and it is the one thing in life that I love unconditionally. I don’t care whether I’m injured, or getting yelled at, or want to cry, or my body is shaking from exhaustion, or my feet are bleeding, dancing is my release and my happy place. 

For a ballet dancer, Christmas is Nutcracker and we have been rehearsing for Nutcracker since the very end of August, after all of City Ballet’s company dancers returned from their respective summer intensives. Each summer, serious ballet students are invited/accepted to train with various ballet companies for 5-6 weeks. These intensives are an amazing opportunity for us, because they allow us to work with different ballet syllabi, train under world renowned dancers, experience the rigorous hours of professionals, live in a dorm, and grow in our technique. After our intensives are over, its Nutcracker time! For those of you who have never seen the Nutcracker, it tells the story of Clara who is gifted a magical nutcracker doll by her uncle, a magician, on Christmas Eve. That night, she sneaks down to the parlor to see her nutcracker. All of the sudden, an army of rats, led by the Rat King (or Queen) attack. Though, she is saved by her nutcracker and a band of toy soldiers who have come to life. The Rat King is ultimately vanquished, and her life size doll transforms into a handsome prince.  He transports Clara to his kingdom, the Land of the Sweets, journeying through the beautiful winter forest of the snowflakes where Clara meets the Snow King and Queen. In his kingdom, Clara meets the Sugarplum Fairy (the Queen) and a performance is put on to celebrate the return of the prince and his new guest. There are performances from the Sugarplum, the Spanish dancers (Chocolate), the Arabian dancers (Coffee), the China dolls (Tea), the Mirlitons (Shepherdesses), the Russian Dancers (Candy Canes), the Polichinelles (Gingersnaps), and lastly the beautiful flowers (Waltz of the Flowers). At the end of the performance, the Nutcracker realizes that it is time to bring Clara home and the two dance one of Ballet’s most famous and heartfelt pas de deux. Clara wakes up the next morning under the Christmas tree, where she had fallen asleep next to her doll the night before, her magical journey becoming nothing more than a dream. 

Set to music by Tchaikovsky and choreographed to fit every ballet syllabus, the Nutcracker is arguably the most famous ballet ever. It is a marvelous Christmas tradition that means the world to every ballerina but can also be appreciated and enjoyed by those without any affiliation with ballet. Even though I perform in the Nutcracker every winter, I never get tired of it. In fact, I absolutely love and enjoy it! The Nutcracker is magical, inspiring, magnificent, and mysterious, and the most important part of what Christmas means to me.

By Olivia Mian