Company Dancer Alexa Torres shares her favorite TWB Nutcracker memories and her journey as Clara!
You can see Alexa as Clara in our Marquee TV Nutcracker film, “Clara’s Christmas Eve Dream.”
My memories of Nutcracker are some of the best I have. I feel as though I could write an entire book on everything that has happened throughout my past three Nutcracker seasons here at The Washington Ballet.
For my very first year, I remember really struggling with the choreography. I was a very new trainee amongst a group of seasoned dancers. Having to learn several parts at once was quite overwhelming. Additionally, I remember that Julie decided that I would make a great Clara… To put it lightly, this was the beginning of a long journey. I recall going into the smallest studio with Elaine Kudo every Sunday morning. We would work meticulously on what Septime had asked for the role of Clara. The focus on small details was tough but very rewarding. Slowly but surely, I was on my way to becoming the best 19 year old Clara I could be, haha…
When the time to perform came around, I was so tired but could not contain my excitement. The Warner Theater was one of the most beautiful theaters I had ever seen. The memories of testing the boat and hot air balloon with Chris remain so vivid. It was a dream come true for me.
Then, the time came for the opening night as Clara. I found myself backstage in the small doorway where I was to enter in the very first scene. It is true that I was nervous, however, the butterflies in my stomach felt more like those I feel the night before Christmas. I was not anxious but rather eager to start dancing. The music started, the lights went on and, through the mesh of the doorway I could make out the vast audience. “Wow,” that’s when it really hit me. I was carrying The Nutcracker in my hands, and could not have been happier. I peaked out and smiled wide because, in a few seconds, I was going to be in my favorite place. I was going to be on stage, for two more hours doing what I love most.
Furthermore, learning other roles was very fun but did take a lot of team effort to get through some of them. For example, Snow Corps was insanely difficult. We had to completely follow each other and dance every single part immaculately. It felt like running into a storm and not getting out until the end of the performance. I had to be really focused and energized in order to remember it all. I wanted to take each role and make it my own. To do so, I had to let go of what I had been taught and go full out; while at the same time remaining hyper-aware of my surroundings. For each different part, I had to switch characters and embody the one that was being asked of me.
Throughout the next two years, my love for the whimsical madness that is Septime’s The Nutcracker grew even more. I was able to learn more roles and get extra comfortable with the ones I had already performed. I was able to embody Clara in a different way and tailor her character some more. Concurrently, my technique grew stronger. This allowed me to feel the music and the steps a lot more than the previous year.
During my third year, I knew exactly what The Nutcracker was about. I was aware that I had to be very strong in order to perform it, especially since I would be doing even more roles than the other years. Moreover, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a completely different character in every part. This year I even had multiple roles in a single show. Sometimes, I had to do Miss Liberty to Snow Queen into Lead Cardinal. Even Though this may sound like a lot, they were my favorite shows. The extreme fatigue in my body and adrenaline rush during those performances remain to this day some of the best memories I have of that year. Dancing past the point of even feeling anything was something I actually looked forward to. I knew that in order to become a prima someday that is what I had to do…
That same year I got promoted to apprentice. This was the craziest moment of my career so far. I remember that before my promotion I had to dance Snow Queen into Lead Cardinal. I knew something was happening and my family was watching. It was my favorite performance of the year because I danced in pure bliss. I felt as though “I left my heart and soul on-stage.” After that show, I was promoted. For the second show of the day (it was a triple show day), I had to dance my very last show as Clara. I performed alongside Lope who was also promoted and was my “iconic prince”. It was a very special moment for us because we felt that we were moving on to the next stage in our lives, literally.
What I remember most, is flying away in the balloon. Waving at everyone from up there felt like kind of a metaphor for growth. I had outgrown the little girl that was first cast as Clara. It was a very teary moment for me, but at the same time, the most beautiful feeling ever.