Follow Clara's Journey from Studio to Stage

Written by Boston Ballet Staff

Clara's Journey

Video Credit: Ernesto Galan

Being Clara

As Clara, you are performing a role that young ballerinas look up to. You want to inspire them–and, of course, the audience.

Act I | The Snow Scene, Soloist Patrick Yocum as the Nutcracker Prince with Delia Wada-Gill

Photo Credit: Liza Voll

Act II | Studio Rehearsal with Soloist Ji Young Chae and Elise Beauchemin

Photo Credit: Lauren Pajer

Act I | The Snow Scene, Soloist Patrick Yocum as the Nutcracker Prince with Delia Wada-Gill

Photo Credit: Liza Voll

Act II | Studio Rehearsal with Soloist Ji Young Chae and Elise Beauchemin

Photo Credit: Lauren Pajer

The journey

We sat down with Boston Ballet School students Delia Wada-Gill, Elise Beauchemin, and Sayre Powell to learn about what it’s like to be cast as Clara for this year’s production of The Nutcracker and what it takes to prepare for the role–auditions, rehearsals, and working with the Company.

What is it like to audition?

Sayre: Generally the first opportunity of the season for kids to perform with the Company is The Nutcracker. So right from the start, there is a build-up of excitement for the audition.
Delia: There are so many students of all ages from all three Boston Ballet School studios, so the process begins by organizing everyone. That’s done by height, smallest to tallest, and we each get our number based on our level. Then, within each level, we will learn a certain step that’s part of the role we’re being considered for in The Nutcracker.
Sayre: One of the most exciting parts is immediately after the audition is over because there’s this buzz of happy energy. Then, after you’re cast, it’s even better because everyone’s so happy to be a part of this amazing opportunity together. That’s something I can’t really put into words, it’s just really special.

How do your Boston Ballet School teachers help you prepare for your role?

Sayre: Once you find out your role, especially for us, you have certain steps you really need to be able to perform perfectly. In classes, our teachers will actually set a combination with some of those steps in there so that you can work on it in class and not just in rehearsal.
Elise: The teachers definitely help us to perfect our technique in class as well as develop our artistry. Technique is just like the basics. We do pliés and eventually we will work up to saut de chat; artistry is what makes it real dancing. You can learn all of the movements, but without artistry it just looks like steps; when you put more of yourself and your artistic interpretation into it, it all comes together and becomes dance. 

What is it like to work with the Company dancers?

Delia: Being able to perform with the professionals is a really great opportunity for us. They are such an inspiration and especially as Clara you are close enough to see them work on stage. When we are on the little throne in the back we can see all the different dances. There you can see how much work they put into their dancing.
Elise: When the Company members rehearse with us, they are performing the emotional parts of their roles too–they get really into what they are doing. Their intensity helps you bring yourself into your character too.

What is it like being backstage?

Sayre: It’s such a thrill… I learn a lot from being backstage because all the Company members are so focused, they’re so on it, they’re so ready, and they’re excited to perform.
Elise: It’s really cool because you get to see everything happening–from the Company members to the artistic staff to the people who are backstage because they are working the lighting and responsible for the timing. I think it’s really cool that we are a part of something so big and amazing.

How is being Clara different from the other roles?

Delia: In the past, I have been mice, lambs, polichinelles, and party girls. My first three roles were animals, and that obviously is very different emotionally–you are more energetic, chipper, and you have to act like a mouse or a lamb. Once I became a party girl, it was different, but it still wasn’t as demanding as playing Clara. For her, your emotions throughout the performance are often changing. In the party scene, you’re very happy, but once you get into the battle scene, you are scared and extra aware of your surroundings.

Clara has a very big responsibility throughout the performance because she’s a constant character. She’s the one who opens the performance with her smile–it starts the music and the story. Then, at the end, it is her responsibility to convey to the audience, by the touch of her crown, that everything that happened wasn’t a dream, it was real.

Act II | Arrival in the Nutcracker Prince's kingdom

Act II | Arrival in the Nutcracker Prince's Kingdom

Photo Credit: Rosalie O'Connor

Why is Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker special to you?

Sayre: The first ballet that I ever saw was Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. We have all these photos of me dancing around in a little tutu when I was four and five.

Elise: I think Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen puts his own twist into The Nutcracker and it is super magical. I can’t imagine a Christmas without The Nutcracker.

Delia: I would say that The Nutcracker is a family tradition for me and I have seen it every single year ever since I was little. Christmas would not be complete without it.

This season’s student casts are supported by a generous gift from Joan D. Wheeler.

The illusion we create is intended to deepen your understanding of reality.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director