I finally performed in Nimbus Dance Works’ “Jersey City Nutcracker” and had a blast! Check out the article as it appeared on NJ.com along with awesome rehearsal pictures by Jersey Journal photographer Lauren Casselberry.
Much thanks to Artistic Director Samuel Pott and all the dancers who helped me prepare for my role. This was one of my funnest assignments so far, hands down!
The big performance: A Behind-the-Scenes look at ‘Jersey City Nutcracker
I arrived a bit late on my big night at Nimbus Dance Works’ “Jersey City Nutcracker,” the company’s first full-length presentation of the classic featuring 100 dancers and an urban twist conceived by Artistic Director Samuel Pott.
Pott offered me a behind-the-scenes look by recruiting me for a one-night performance as Mama Cannoli, the troupe’s version of the infamous Mother Ginger, who lifts up the skirt of her gigantic dress to reveal her dancing children, the Bon Bons. In the Nimbus show, the Bon Bons are replaced with “Cookies,” 12 dancers ages 5 and 6.
The show premiered on Wednesday to rave reviews and the Friday show was completely sold out. As I got ready, butterflies began to flit about in my stomach. Even with the acting and performing experience I have under my belt, I still get nervous every time.
I missed a pre-show rehearsal for another scene Pott asked me to be part of, a street scene where the fictional city’s mayor tries to rally the people for a Christmas tree lighting that goes awry.
In the scene, I was supposed to come out with other adults and kids, greet other citizens and react to the mayor’s empty promises of city improvement and the Christmas tree lights not working.
When show time came, I basically had no idea what to do and went to all parts of the stage I wasn’t supposed to and felt like a big dope. Eventually, I found my way to a good place and said “Oh, phooey!” to the mayor, cheered for Christmas hope, then sighed when the tree didn’t come aglow.
I hoped to redeem myself with my big moment as Mama Cannoli. Pott told me before the show that they had a new wig for me. I was delighted, especially after seeing some atrocious pictures of me in the bright green wig they had me wear for the dress rehearsal on Tuesday. (The pictures were great, I’m just horribly “unphotogenic.” In real life, I’m practically a doppleganger of Lucy Liu, Zhang Ziyi or Shakira. Really, I swear.)
I got an adorable blonde wig the color of cannoli filling. One of the “Liberty Angels” – a group of girls ages 7 and 8 who dance in Act 2 with “Lady Liberty” Jessica Einhorn – couldn’t stop staring at my new hair. “Are you wearing a wig?” asked the little blonde.
“Yes,” I replied. “Do I make a good blonde?” She nodded. “You’re a better blonde, though,” I said.
“Well, I was born blonde,” she said.
“Do you think if I got reborn I might come out blonde?” I asked.
“Maybe, but don’t kill yourself!” She gasped.
As Act 2 started, choreographer and dancer Fanny Gombert told me to wait for Lady Liberty and the angels to finish their dance so Einhorn and dancer Nick Sciscione – who played Mama Cannoli in a gender-bending twist last night – could help me get into my gigantic costume.
As soon as Einhorn finished, I got into the hoop skirt and dress, climbed onto the ladder and put an apron over the black straps holding up the skirt. Einhorn straightened out my dress while Sciscione held up black fabric to obscure me from the audience.
We were ready!
But we quickly realized we had gotten in place a little too early. As Sciscione held the fabric up for what seemed like 16 hours, the fabric began to droop and I realized- everyone could totally see my head. I bent down and put my head between my legs the best I could without falling off the ladder and cart supporting me. As the time for the Cookies’ dance came, other dancers positioned me and I got close enough to the fabric to help prop it up with my arm.
Eventually, it was finally show time.
The Cookies got under my dress with Gombert and Einhorn, who guided them as the music started and they rolled me out. Sciscione released the fabric and we began entering the stage. Some of the Cookies, however, stepped on my dress, almost yanking me down. We bumped into some of the stage lights but I played it off, laughing and gesturing as if to say, “Oh, no! I’m so huge, I can’t get through!”
Finally, we got out to center stage and the Cookies jumped out and did their dance beautifully. I gushed over them like they were my kids, waved and blew kisses as the Cookies wheeled me out and as the music ended, it was over as quickly as it had begun.
Backstage, the dancers helped me out of my dress and I congratulated my Cookies on their wonderful performance.
The Sugar Plum Fairy, played by Pott’s wife Peiju Chien-Pott, and the Cavalier, played by Michael Fernandez, took the stage. I sat back and watched as the stage lights splashed their dancing shadows onto a backstage wall. It was beautiful.
As the show ended and I bowed in the curtain call with the rest of the cast and the audience cheered. In the fanfare, a little girl sitting in the audience ran out to bow with us. The house erupted in delight and laughter and I knew the show had filled quite a few hearts with holiday cheer.
Nimbus Dance Works’ production wrapped yesterday and the company is working on programs for its spring season. For more information, visit NimbusDanceWorks.org.