“I have had the privilege of performing The Nutcracker with live music every year and the excitement of hearing the first few notes of the overture which never changes! I think it’s because my first role began with me running on demi-pointe across the stage between the front curtain and the orchestra pit during the repeat in the overture. My teacher told me, ‘Listen to the music carefully because it will tell you when to go and what to do.’ My mom was always nervous for me, but the minute my feet touched the stage floor, everything was okay and I was transported to another place,” recounts Anne Marie Getz, Associate Artistic Director of Ballet Theatre of Toledo, about performing in The Nutcracker for the past 45 years! “I still feel that same ‘elevation’ today -- that special feeling of stepping on to the stage. It’s been a magical journey from mice to snowflake, slowly growing into new and challenging roles. I wasn’t ever Clara, but I am so pleased I never gave up or I would have missed out on so many wonderful years of dancing, including the roles of Snow Queen and Queen of the Flowers. Now, I dance the role of Clara’s mother and I no longer have the stress of having ‘just the right pair of pointe shoes’, but the desire and drive to dance my very best never goes away!”
Anne Marie with her husband, Nigel Burgoine Ballet Theater of Toledo Artistic Director, celebrate BTT’s 10th anniversary season with The Nutcracker performances on Thanksgiving weekend. After auditions held on a Saturday in September then seeing the casting posted the following Monday with a 3-month rehearsal schedule, nearly 100 BTT students ages 7 and up perform with guest artists from companies such as Lexington Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Louisville Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet each year. Anne Marie shares that now she finds watching students take on new roles every year most rewarding. “I remember rehearsing Mirlitons one year and three little girls were watching through the windows. Several years later the same three girls were old enough to be rehearsing the role and they already knew every step!”
As many The World Dances readers are preparing for your own The Nutcracker performances, Anne Marie offers these 3 important tips for dancers.
1. Remember the director/choreographer wants you to look your very best and every role is important. Make the most of any role, even if it’s not the role you wanted. You might be surprised!
2. Attend all rehearsals and build strength through regular classes. You want to be a strong, confident dancer on stage!
3. Enter the theater and stage with respect for the art of classical ballet.
Anne Marie also suggests these important tips for teachers presenting The Nutcracker:
1. Make your productions look as professional as possible so more students will want to participate and the community will want to return the next year.
2. Stand by your casting decisions and choreography.
3. Stay with tradition so people will understand the ballet. For many people, this may be their first experience with ballet.
Both Anne Marie and Nigel have wonderful, precious Nutcracker moments to share. Perhaps most aww-inspiring is Nigel’s onstage marriage proposal to Anne Marie in 2003. Nigel reveals, “I hid the ring in my pocket all day. At the end of The Nutcracker performance I came on stage to take a bow and asked Anne Marie to come forward and told her in front of 2000 people that I had a very important question for her. I then dropped to one knee and asked her to do me the very great honor of becoming my wife. At that point the stage crew gently let snow fall on us.” Anne Marie tells The World Dances, “My most memorable Nutcracker moment is having my “Prince for Life” propose to me on stage during curtain call. Wow, all I can say is “Fairy-tale!”
|Nigel Burgoine and Anne Marie Getz - Engagement 2003|
Anne Marie’s vivid memories of dancing The Nutcracker roles over the years help shape her thoughts as a dancer and dance teacher today. “I clearly remember in rehearsals looking up to the “older dancers” hoping to one day dance as snowflake or flower. As party girls and mice we would “practice” the snowflake dance or waltz of the flowers. I think I could have put on the entire Nutcracker in just my grey leotard and mouse tail! I always remind our dancers how much of an impact they have on the younger dancers. It’s so important to be a positive role model.
|Anne Marie Getz with Dad and Brothers - "Prologue" 1970||Anne Marie Getz - King of the Mice 1976||Anne Marie Getz - Snow Queen with Cameron Cadwell of Cincinnati Ballet 1996|
Nigel also recalls marvelous Nutcracker memories in England as a child, “I loved seeing the scenery doors open as we started dancing as children in Rudolf Nureyev's Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. My big toe nail fell off the morning before we danced and I glued it back on so that Matron would not see I had a problem!” Nigel has gone on to dance several Nutcracker roles over the years. As Ballet Theatre of Toledo’s Artistic Director, Nigel’s memorable moments include having more than 100 families drive to Batesville, IN – a 7+ hour drive -- to perform his Nutcracker.
|Nigel Burgoine with Rudolph Nureyeuv & Antoinette Sibley - Royal Ballet School 1967||Nigel Burgoine as Party Boy 1967||Nigel Burgoine, London Festival Ballet - Cavalier Male Dancer on Left|
Nigel and Anne Marie are rightfully proud of BTT’s Nutcracker production. “It involves a great deal of people in the community from dancers, musicians, stage crew, theatre staff, TV personalities, parents and audience members,” explains Nigel. “We perform a Special Needs and Assisted living show on Friday afternoon and the dancers come out in the lobby to meet the children with special needs and the families of the assisted living communities. The dancers are all aware they are not just dancing on stage because they love dancing, but they are part of a very big production that is a showcase of our community pride. This production is held on Friday afternoon so that everyone who attends can get to the show and home before dark. Instead of an intermission, Santa Clause comes out and sings carols and all the audience join in. One parent of two young girls with special needs came up to me and gave me a large cake made out of fudge. She said she had never been able to take her daughters to a live performance because she did not know how they would react. She now brings the girls every year and also a cake. Sometimes the cake is shaped like a Nutcracker, other times like a pair of pointe shoes. On another occasion a child in a wheelchair was upset with the loud music in the battle scene and her chaperone brought her into the lobby and the Great Pyrenees dog “Miss Gracie” that appears in the show, walked over and put her head in the child’s lap to cheer her up.
You can see Ballet Theatre of Toledo’s The Nutcracker November 28-30 at Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo, OH.