Ashley Bouder’s First Nutcrackerâ??and Her Next



When the mighty Christmas tree grows in the first act of The Nutcracker, it’s like a rite of passage—you’re never too old for that kind of awe. And tomorrow, for the first time, New York City Ballet’s yearly classic will be shown to a much wider audience in movie theaters nationwide. The live broadcast tomorrow evening, hosted by Kelly Ripa, will feature extras like interviews with dancers and a backstage look into rehearsals. Balanchine’s choreography is playful, exciting and regal; and on the big screen, the scenery will be dazzling.

Performing Dewdrop in the Waltz of the Flowers is one of City Ballet’s most exhilarating principal dancers, Ashley Bouder. Dewdrop is a demanding role, requiring poise and seemingly infinite energy. She is the centerpiece of the flowers and, not to be outdone by the Sugarplum Fairy, wears a crown dripping with sparkling gems. Interview spoke with Bouder about performing Nutcracker, being the first American company to broadcast live in cinemas, and whether she’ll be tweeting backstage.

MERYL CATES: This season’s performances of Nutcracker are well underway, and you’ve been in rehearsals since the beginning of November, right?

ASHLEY BOUDER: Yes, we have.

CATES: When did rehearsals actually begin?

BOUDER: We started a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, because we’re always off for Thanksgiving.

CATES: So, are there any extra nerves, knowing you that will be projected live on the big screen?

BOUDER: I’m trying to not have any. [laughs]

CATES: [laughs] Just trying to be very calming?

BOUDER: Yeah, I’ve done this role for 10 years now here, so it’s still difficult, but I feel comfortable.

CATES: And will you be tweeting from backstage to make it super live?

BOUDER: I don’t know. I won’t be tweeting during the second act, when I’m dancing. I might tweet during the first act. Something about getting ready.

CATES: I’ve read this is the first time an American ballet company will broadcast live in cinemas.

BOUDER: Yeah, it’s very exciting. I think it’s about time. We’ve been getting broadcasts from the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet and places like that, but it makes me a little upset that ballet lovers come and they know the Russian ballerinas but they don’t know who we are. So I think this is a good thing, and I hope that we get to do this a lot more.

CATES: Well it’s a wonderful opportunity to cultivate audiences—especially all the children out there who maybe can’t come and see it live.

BOUDER: Oh absolutely! I think it’s a good opportunity to take your child, because you’re also at a movie theater—if they start crying or making noise it’s not such a big deal as it is in the regular theater.

CATES: Right. So Dewdrop is such an elegant but rigorous role, and you’ve performed it many times. Do you continue to discover new challenges in the choreography?

BOUDER: I think the choreography is challenging anyway, for anyone at any level, so I think it’s always difficult. You’re always going to be tired at the end of it. You’re always going to push your body to the limit. And I think that actually more and more I’m finding nuances in it and I don’t have to push quite so hard in some areas because I’ve become more comfortable with it. So I can find my space for myself, to breathe and to feel pretty.

CATES: I read recently [former New York City Ballet principal dancer] Jock Soto’s memoir Every Step You Take and he remembers his first Nutcracker with the company, which I believe he said he was Hot Chocolate. Do you remember your first?

BOUDER: My first performance with the company I did the doll in the first act and Chinese in the second act.

CATES: I feel like that’s something every dancer remembers, what their first Nutcracker was.

BOUDER: My actual first Nutcracker was many years before that, when I was six years old. I was an angel in The Nutcracker when I was at my school at home, and we actually did the same version that we do here.

CATES: Oh, precision.

BOUDER: Yeah, I’ve been watching the same version of Dewdrop and Sugarplum since I was very little, which I’ve also danced in at home when I was quite young.