Metro chatted with Megan Fairchild, who plays both the Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop in New York City Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker.’
How many times have you performed in “The Nutcracker”?
I’ve been in a “Nutcracker” every year since I was 9, so it’s very close to my heart. I’m 27 now, so I guess I’ve been performing it for nearly two-thirds of my life!
How many roles have you played through the years?
When you’re a kid, casting for “The Nutcracker” is all based on height. I started off as a polichinelle (the girls that come out from under Mother Ginger’s skirt). Then I went on to do Clara (the equivalent of NYCB’s “Marie”), then a soldier, then a pageboy, and then several more advanced roles. It was a big deal when I first got to dance Sugarplum Fairy, the lead female role. I was only 19 and a little overwhelmed, but it was really exciting.
How heavy are your costumes?
The Sugarplum Fairy costume doesn’t weigh me down at all. I love that green tutu. It’s one of the comfiest costumes I have, and I feel very free and very much myself in it. The Spanish costumes are a different story. I danced that role when I was an apprentice in the company, and it’s actually hard to get off the floor when you jump because the skirt is so heavy.
What did you think of “Black Swan”?
I loved it. It’s a really intense thing that we do, this art form. It can get really emotional and mental, with the stress of performing well in front of a lot a people and competing with the people around you for roles. It’s stuff that most dancers don’t talk about, but it is part of the culture. I feel like the movie hit it spot on — how hard it is to be a ballet dancer and the pressure people put on themselves. All ballet dancers are inherently perfectionists. But it was exaggerated. Nobody’s hallucinating at work or anything. That whole thing had nothing to do with what we do.
Since you're playing two roles, do you ever get your steps mixed up?
With "The Nutcracker," we do it every year, the same steps over and over again, so we definitely get comfortable with all of it. Also, what we do is so tied to the music and the counts. Whenever the music comes on somehow our bodies just know what to do.
Was it overwhelming to learn so many steps?
At any given time I may have over 10 ballets committed to memory, ready to perform at any moment. That’s just how we’re trained and how we work. Learning a new ballet or role can be overwhelming at first, but it’s part of the job and always an exciting challenge.
How is it working amongst so many children?
I enjoy sharing the stage with the kids. Throughout the season some of them come up and talk to us or leave letters asking for signed pointe shoes and that’s always sweet. It’s exciting for them, so it’s fun to be a part of their experience.