UPDATED, Dec. 25: What brings people to the Boston Ballet production of The Nutcracker? Lavish sets and costumes, festive theme, professional dancers and inventive choreography, to be sure. Further attractions are the many children onstage -- 224 of them divided into three casts -- and, of course, the beloved Tchaikovsky score.
Among town residents participating in this traditional holiday spectacle are Jordan Lally, a fourth grader at St. Agnes School; Talya Borisy, a seventh grader at Belmont Day School; and Boston Ballet Orchestra member Iva Milch, who is now in her 26th year of performing in The Nutcracker. Recently, YourArlington caught up with all three of them in separate interviews.
Lally is 9 years old and plays a lamb in the Pastorale scene of Act II. This is her second year in The Nutcracker; in 2015, she played a baby mouse in the battle scene. "It's fun being a lamb. I get to sit down, run around in a circle, pose at the end and go offstage," she said.
To make the lambs look more lifelike, each has a little black nose. Lally said that when she and the other lambs arrive at the theater for a performance, "We get our noses painted. After we leave the stage, we take off our costumes, and they [the Boston Ballet staff] give us wipes to clean our noses." Having divested themselves of their costumes and makeup, the children can leave the theater; they don’t have to wait until the end of the entire performance. "I get home around 10 p.m., and that’s not too late on weekends."
She has attended Boston Ballet School for four years, the last two of them at the Newton studio. She wants to continue studying ballet and said that The Nutcracker parts she'd like to play are the Sugar Plum Fairy (the adult star of the show), a party girl (one of the young guests at the Christmas party in Act I) and Clara (the junior star).
Twelve-year-old Borisy has been taking ballet lessons at the Boston Ballet School studio in Newton since she was 3. She recalls being excited when she was cast as a party girl in Act I, because "it’s a role I've been wanting for a while." Last year, she played a polichinelle, one of the little French clowns who come out from under Mother Ginger's skirt.
As Borisy explained, "the party takes place in the 1800s, so you're not doing what you'd do at a party today. We have to be ladylike, not slouch, and make sure to stay in character." Clara's rambunctious brother, Fritz, and his friends -- all Boston Ballet School students -- are also at the party in addition to the children’s onstage parents and Clara's magician godfather, Herr Drosselmeier.
The part Borisy plays is complicated, involving a lot of stage business as well as dancing. Here's how she described it: "We’re supposed to pay attention when Harlequin, the ballerina doll and the dancing bear [all company members] are onstage. Then Drosselmeier brings out the nutcracker doll, and we walk away, looking as if we’re disappointed. Next, we get involved in a tug-of-war over the nutcracker until it breaks in two, and we all fall down. When the lullaby starts, we cradle our dolls to show how much we love them." At that point the boys come riding in on their hobbyhorses in an effort to scare the girls.
"What’s great about this role," she noted, "is that you get to come up with your own things to do onstage. When the boys ride in, some of the girls guard their dolls, some whack the boys away, some look as if they’re yelling at the boys to stop. You can use the story to express yourself."
Borisy also loves having the opportunity to interact with professional dancers: "You get to see how committed and dedicated they are. The party parents [company members] learn your name, and you get to work with them." For an aspiring young dancer, that’s a thrilling experience.
Milch grew up in Teaneck, N.J., where she took piano as a child and started flute lessons through the public-school system. "I found out I had a bit of talent in music, and it ended up being what I did professionally," she said.
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