The Nutcracker: Behind the Scenes

Ashley Purcella, Writer

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It’s time for the holidays! Some may be preparing by making hot chocolate and wearing ugly sweaters, but a few Albuquerque Academy students are getting ready in a different way. This time of year, there are hundreds of productions of The Nutcracker around the country and throughout the world. And luckily, Festival Ballet Albuquerque is performing their annual performance of The Nutcracker In The Land of Enchantment at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

My name is Ashley Purcella, and I’m a senior here at Academy.  I have been dancing for most of my life, and I’m honored to say this is my tenth consecutive year performing in a production of The Nutcracker. For those who may not know, it’s a very intense process to put on a show of this magnitude. There re auditions, many weeks of rehearsals, and lots of blisters. I auditioned for The Nutcracker In The Land of Enchantment in August, and, while the audition was only two hours, I was extremely nervous. I warmed up, put on my old, almost dead pair of pointe shoes, and took a deep breath. The audition consisted of a few sections. First, there were a few classical ballet combos; next were some excerpts from parts on flat shoes—rather than the pointe shoes ballerinas typically use; and at the end were my favorite excerpts from parts on pointe. Things went great. Now it was just a waiting game.

About two weeks later, casting was announced. This is always the most nerve-racking part of the process. I remember being so anxious to open my envelope, hoping that I would get all the parts I wanted. There on the tiny piece of paper, it read, “You have been cast as: Indian Princess Doll, Snow Demi-Soloist, half cast Archangel, half cast Spanish Corps, Shepherdess, Flower, and understudy Shepherdess Lead.” I was thrilled to have achieved a lead role again this year. I couldn’t wait to put on the elegant bodice and long flowy skirt once again, twirling and gliding elegantly over the fog-filled stage.

In September, we started rehearsals. This meant spending anywhere from four to eight hours each day of the weekend rehearsing different pieces. While we started out just learning the pieces, we got to a point where we had memorized all our parts and it was time to clean. We went through each dance painstakingly slowly just to make sure every arm, foot, and head matched perfectly. This continued every weekend for multiple weeks until we got to run-throughs. That’s where we are now: running through the entire show to make sure it all fits together. It is now time for performances. Nothing is more amazing than getting on stage in a beautiful costume for hundreds of eyes to see you and making everyone smile.

Festival Ballet performed their rendition of the Nutcracker, The Nutcracker In The Land of Enchantment December 14-16 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. It featured Ashley Purcella ’19, Cate Roybal-Ray ’23, Melissa Purcella ’25, and performing arts faculty member Rosalinda Rojas.