My first wondrous experience of The Nutcracker ballet was when I was 8 years old. Little did I know then how it would change the rest of my life.
I started dancing and performing in wonderful dance recitals at the age of 3, loving every minute on stage even at that young age, with Mitzi Gray’s Dance studio in Chanute, Kansas. My mom (Mitzi Gray Budd) was my dance teacher and studio owner. Four years later our family moved to South Florida. Deciding not to open another dance studio in Florida and looking to enroll myself and my 3 sisters in dance lessons, she took us to see a local production of The Nutcracker by the Imperial Studios.
We were awestruck! We had never seen anything like this before – a full-length ballet, the level of the ballet technique of the students, the guest artists from New York, the beautiful costumes and sets. And my favorite, Clara, in her sleigh, magically flying across the stage in the Snow scene! My mom enrolled us in the studio soon thereafter and we were not only taking ballet classes but tap, character, flamenco and modern.
And then my amazing life story with the Nutcracker begins…
For my first Nutcracker, I was cast as the youngest child who falls asleep at the party. I well remember being carried off by my handsome stage father at the end of the party scene.
When I was cast as Clara, it was like a dream. I loved all of it… the music, the acting, the challenging choreography on pointe, my costumes (especially the dress and pantaloons), the fun party scene, the dramatic battle scene, the stunning snow scene, the beautiful land of the sweets, the graceful and elegant Sugar Plum Fairy and of course flying in that magical sleigh I had seen a few years earlier. I never wanted the performances to end.
As a professional ballet dancer for over 20 years, I was grateful to perform the Nutcracker several hundred times. I was cast as a party mother, party doll, Snow Corps, Spanish soloist, Flute soloist, Flower corps, and (my favorite!) the Sugar Plum Fairy. For more than a decade as a guest artist, I loved performing the Sugar Plum Fairy throughout the US.
I have many wonderful memories from my days performing, but the one I will always remember was when a young audience member asked for my autograph and then told me I had given her chills with my performance. She had experienced the magic!
After I retired from performing, it wasn’t long until I returned to the theater. The Nutcracker soon called me back but this time to be part of the back stage crew. As the costume mistress, for the Westchester Ballet Company’s beautiful production of the Nutcracker, under the direction of Beth Fritz-Logrea and Jean Logrea, I joyfully manage over 150 costumes – fitting, altering, repairing, and creating.
So the Nutcracker continues to be part of my life and even with Trienawear! For several years, I have designed the skirts which the lovely dancers of Dalton Dance Company wear for their Nutcracker company photos. These photos are of the 2017 DDC levels I-IV.
I never ever get tired of the Nutcracker. It really is truly magical. The musical score is at once beautiful, exciting, exhilarating and romantic. The story is never outdated and the live stage production is magnificent; a tree that grows, mice and toy soldiers bigger than life, snow falling, and beautiful divertissements from around the world in the Kingdom of the Sweets. From the first notes of the overture, to the rousing finale, both the performers and the audience live in the moment and travel together on this amazing and magical journey. And that is why I will always love the Nutcracker!