Ballerinas feel the holiday spirit with Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet

By Megan Ward and Caitie Benell

Every September, Nicolena Farias-Eisner ’13 stands with other dancers at the side of the room in a dance studio waiting for her audition. She wonders which part she will receive and if her steps and pirouettes will be like she practiced. She takes a breath and walks to the middle of the room. The song is one she has heard for the past seven years: “The Waltz of the Snow Flakes.”

Farias-Eisner performed last weekend as the Snow Queen in her studio’s annual Nutcracker Ballet, which Farias-Eisner describes as a “tradition for every ballerina.”

The Nutcracker Ballet, written and composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, centers on Clara, a young girl who receives a nutcracker for Christmas. As she sleeps, she embarks on a journey with her Nutcracker Prince to the Land of Sweets.

For seven years, Farias-Eisner has been studying ballet and participating in the Nutcracker at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet in Hollywood, a Russian Classical Ballet School based on the Vaganova Academy and Kirov Academy in Russia. She said she especially loves her roles this year of Pulchinella and the Snow Queen.

“Pulchinella is a dance with a lot of jumps and lifts, and the music is just very uplifting and fun,” she said. “The Snow Queen is different because it is a very sophisticated and advanced role which allows me to challenge myself.”

Farias-Eisner also performed this year in The Nutcracker Ballet themed episode of “Cupcake Wars.” The New York City Ballet Company did not have enough dancers, so the casting director called on Farias-Eisner’s studio to provide three dancers.

In preparation for the holidays, Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” aired an episode on Dec. 4 and 11 in which each cupcake had to feature an ingredient from The Nutcracker Ballet, such as a sugarplum or dewdrops. In every episode of “Cupcake Wars,” three cupcake bakers compete in three different rounds. The competitors bake for judges and after each round, someone is eliminated. Farias-Eisner was chosen to appear as a background dancer on the show.

Although the show was Nutcracker-themed, performing on television was different from Farias-Eisner’s typical live performances.

“It was a whole new world on TV,” Farias-Eisner said. “We could re-do scenes to get the perfect shot, but during one of my shows you have just one chance to get it right.”

Throughout the seven-hour day, the dancers were able to meet the judges, watch the show live and even try the cupcakes.

Although she plans on staying on the live stage, she believes that this opportunity showed her a different style of performing and will help her develop as a dancer in the future.

“This is the kind of experience I don’t think I will ever forget,” she said.

Lida Mazina ’13, who practices with Farias-Eisner, said playing Clara was an amazing experience for her after dancing in almost all of the ensemble pieces.

Isabelle Jaffe ’15 also played the lead role of Clara, but in the Malibu Civic Ballet’s production. Jaffe had never auditioned for the Nutcracker at a studio she was not a part of. She was considered a guest artist in the production. Jaffe trains with three separate instructors who teach her different dance techniques.

“I was very excited my first year because I love the music, and in the past, I had always gotten to watch the older girls rehearse so I was ready for my turn,” Jaffe said. “I love to pack my bags and set up my makeup box and feel like I’m living the life of a professional dancer.”

Kaitlyn Yiu ’13, who dances at the Kova Ballet, and Alisha Bansal ’14, who dances for the California Dance Academy, both had shows this past weekend.

“I love that the Nutcracker instantly makes you feel like it’s the holidays and that I become really close with everyone involved,” Bansal said. “I performed so many roles already it’s hard to count.”

Yiu said that before her show, she takes part in a warm up class to make sure her muscles are stretched out and the group is ready to perform.

“My coach usually gathers us in a little circle and wishes us good luck in all different languages and gives us kisses on the cheek,” Yiu said.

Natalie Bradford ’14 and Rachel Schwartz ’13 participated this year with Westside Ballet in their production of the Nutcracker last Thursday and Friday.

“It’s different now,” Schwartz said. “There is more responsibility being older and being a soloist because you have to make sure you look good. You like to think everyone is watching you when you are little, but it’s probably only your mom.”

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